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UJDnLD 32 


Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2010 

THE^APfe OF TRUTH TO COME analysis by Chris Carlsson 

34 i— I . 



>SN 0735-9] 
DING FUTURES analys itf ii Of I I k key D. 



TUAL HELL fiction by ^rTC|-h 

IR & BIDET tale of toil UpMMKe Wabbitt fO 

a., ar ff^ 



35 r7 

HE SCIENTIFIC SUN agwie by Greg WijBj 


^N RUSH HOUR poem b)U0liiCoph 

■~ » ^ 44 

PC^T^Y FMrFreinten, Friedman, Howingtorwjohns 

( J 46 ^ 

DEATH OF A NATION future scenari® 

.S. Black 

TRANSIT ZONE Black,iJMowles, Wabbitt, Car^f< 

t>YRAMID AND THi TREE article by Adasn Cornford 
'■• Front covef: Setli Grundvig & Nigel Frendi • Back Co\ 

PW ColAciHB£3iayD.PatraUu%^JRS, Pnmitivo Morales, Mrlna, Zoe Noe. Chris CaHMStiUPPfiar*} Wool, Sarah Mom, Kwazee Wabbitt. D.S. Black, Iguana 
Mente, HiihX>T^fflMfc ' ~ 

Other ClimrtWIpWrn Adtm Cornford, Douj Minkier, Tom Tomorrow, Angela Bocage, \i. Batellier. Beth V„ Linda Johnson, Jon Chrlttensen, J. Oan, 
Hermenaut, Totally Norenal, Karen QHTTan, VL. NoltaNJ^KaZitt Acki, DavM Green 

The material In fvxes^ti Worid reflects th« views and fantasies of the specific authors and artists, and not necessarily those of other contributors, editors, or 
BACAT. Processed World is a projea of the Bay Area Center for Art & Technology (6ACAT). a non-profit, tax-exempt corporation. BACAT can be conta«ed at 
1095 Market Street, Suite 209, San Francisco, CA 94103. PW or BACAT may be phoned at (415) 626-2979 or faxed at 626-2685, or e-mailed at froci%%e<i WorW is collectively edited and produced. Nobody gets paid (except the printer, the post office/UPS, the landlord and the phone co.). 
We welcome comments, letters, and submissions (no originals!). Write us at 41 Sutter St. #1829, San Francisco, CA 94104. Processed World is indexed in the 
Akerrtative Press Index. 

Utopyin' Heads 

A century ago Utopian literature was popu- 
lar and people could speculate more freely 
about the golden future and the best-of-all-pos- 
sible-worlds to come. The educated consensus 
was that technology would eliminate drudgery 
and want, and democracy and freedom would 
flourish in its wake as a result of prosperity and 
free market pluralism. 

Alas, it didn't quite work out that way. 
While there was a moderate reduction of 
"full-time" work — ^the 40-hour week 
became the standard in the early 20th cen- 
tury — there have been no significant 
advances since. In fact we're losing ground. 
The transformation of work implied by the 
1 9th-century Utopians never occurred. 
Hopes have faded and nowadays Utopias 
are hard to imagine. Today's future is typi- 
cally portrayed as a dismal and dangerous 
post-apocalyptic hell. After a mere half- 
decade of mild reform (or "the end of his- 
tory") — primarily the collapse of the Soviet 
Union, but also the fall of some of the 

more corrupt Third World regimes — most 
people shy away from the future and are 
scrambling to turn back the clock. 

This is especially true of the post-Soviet 
bloc. Politicos and masses both East and 
West expected (or at least hoped) that the 
end of the Cold War would unleash the 
best of free market capitalism and plural- 
ism. It didn't. A few small fragments of the 
fallen empire — generally those with the 
closest ties to the West like Hungary, 
Slovenia and the Czech Republic — seem to 
be stumbling towards more liberal eco- 
nomic and social policies, but these are the 
exceptions. The satellite states in the 
Caucasus and Balkans have universally 
degenerated into "ethnic cleansing" and 
local imperialism. Most of the old Warsaw 
Pact nations and newly formed Turkic 
republics — Poland, Romania, Kazakhstan, 
etc. — have just voted back in the old com- 
munists (now all renamed things like "New 
Left Alliance") after a brief flirtation with 

"opposition" rule. In Russia, where capital- 
ism seems to have taken the form of 
mafiosi in Mercedes and Big Macs at a 
week's wages, a coup masquerading as 
democracy was narrowly imposed by the 
troops of the KGB's elite Dzerzhinsky 
police division, whose efforts in the 
coup were fully supported by Clinton, 
the IMF, and the western media. Now 
there's a twist the pundits and futurists 
didn't foretell! 

There were a number of popular revo- 
lutions in the late '70s and '80s which suc- 
ceeded in overthrowing long-established 
and impossibly corrupt dictators and/or 
imperialist regimes: the Philippines, 
Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Ethiopia/Eritrea, 
Angola, Nigeria, Haiti, Nicaragua, etc. Due 
to unresolved conflicts, deliberate external 
subversion (by the CIA and its clients) and 
impossible economic reforms demanded by 
the IMF, few of these revolutions have 
resulted in the hoped for peace or pros- 

perity. Some of these nations are in chaotic 
stasis, others have reverted to the control 
of the old oligarchies; in a few the new 
populist regimes cling to a limited and 
impoverished rule. Long-delayed plans to 
reduce apartheid in Israel and South Africa 
offer a future as frightening as it is promis- 
ing, with former "revolutionaries" becom- 
ing the new gendarmes. 

Even where the status quo is clearly 
unpalatable, like scandal-ridden Italy and 
Japan, the old regimes persist in only slightly 
altered form for lack of a viable alternative. 
China promises to be the next century's 
Top Dog, provided that it doesn't become 
the next basket-case of disintegration. Even 
worse, the Consumer China now under 
construction — full of TVs, microv/aves, and 
cars — could well put the final nail in the 
planetary eco-sphere's coffin. The world's 
ossified oligarchies, veritable dinosaurs of 
social organization, retain control through 
sheer inertia, backed up by raw force. 

The capitalist West, too, is intently try- 
ing to hold onto the present and shares the 
general fear of the future. European unity, 
another supposed bounty of the Cold 
War's end, seemed close for awhile but 
now has stalled in the face of a sudden 
resurgence of old-style nationalism. 
Officially, unity is narrowly passing its local 
referendums, but in fact its most significant 
aspects — like the common currency — have 
unraveled or been placed on the back- 
burner. After prolonged consideration, 
Europe isn't so sure it wants to abandon its 
old ways and embark upon its technocratic, 
rationalized future. 

Here in the U.S. a limited future is dra- 
matically promoted by a new administra- 
tion, which promises (nearly) universal 
health care (while guaranteeing a long and 
profitable future for the insurance indus- 
try) and a North American free trade area. 
Even as marketing rhetoric this can't be 
sold as a massive leap forward, but it does 
embrace a popular notion of progress 
embodied in Technological Democracy 
(Democratic Technocracy?). The dreams of 
Utopians are long forgotten. These moder- 
ate reforms are turning out to be a hard 
sell, anyway, with vested interests sabotag- 
ing health reform and everyone from Perot 
to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and 
the AFL-CIO protesting NAFTA in defense 
of the status quo. Either way, it's still 
worker against worker. 

The future of national politics itself is 
even in doubt, as multinational technocrats 
continue to push aggressively for the latest 


fim^OlO^i^r ^MH^ \H\Cr\HmiOU 

GATT (the General Agreement on Tariffs 
and Trade), an agreement which is 
designed to make the entire world a free 
zone for capitalist development. GATT tri- 
bunals will override local environmental 
and labor regulations if they conflict with 
"free trade" as defined by corporate lap- 
dogs like Mickey Kantor (US Trade Rep). 
U.S. regulations protecting dolphins from 
predatory tuna fishing techniques were 
overruled in an earlier GATTaclysm. As we 
go to press, the heroic petty bourgeois 
small farmers of France are holding the 
entire GATT process hostage, but there's 
a great deal of pressure internationally to 
get a new GATT agreement. Once passed, 
national sovereignty will be a casualty 
(granted, nothing to cry over), as the needs 
of capital will be given legal standing above 
that of national (or local) laws. 

Change frightens people. Staying the 
course to maintain the obviously inade- 
quate present is preferred to risking an 
even more disastrous future. But the 
future needn't be so grim. It's true that 
widespread attempts at economic and 
social change and the fall of dictatorships 
didn't improve things much, and high tech- 
nology doesn't automatically produce pros- 
perity or freedom. Politics and toy/tools 
aside, what can transform the world is a 
revolution in how and why we work. 

In this issue we glimpse some possible 
futures, some more hopeful than others. In 
Death of a Nation, Adam Cornford details 
a 30-50 year scenario leading to the 
breakup of the U.S. Cornford also philoso- 
phizes about how metaphors shape our 
lives in The Pyramid & The Tree. Michael 
Botkin takes us further into an imaginary 
future where a U.S. secret agent is dis- 
patched to investigate and subvert the now 


separate nation of Pacifica along North 
America's west coast. A more dystopic 
view is presented in Chris Carlsson's 
Virtual Hell, where some of the implica- 
tions of the new interactive media future 
are played out; the same tendencies get a 
more serious look in his article The Shape 
of Truth to Come: New Media & 
Knowledge, in which the trajectory from 
oral to literate society is seen as the 
antecedent to the current move from 
Spectacular society to a possible self-man- 
aged interactive spectacle. Mickey D's 
Trading Futures: The Abolition of the 
Economy dismantles the blind acceptance 
of economic categories that regularly dom- 
inates discourse. Richard Wool rolls the 
dice with his analysis of gambling in 
Eureka?!, while Jon Christensen contributes 
a techno-nightmare story about water 
development in Nevada's desert. Kwazee 
Wabbitt checks in with our only Tale of 
Toil in this issue. Boudoir & Bidet, detailing 
his sordid experiences cleaning house and 
giving head. D.S. Black contributes many 
graffiti photos throughout the issue, and 
gives a look at some guerrilla art attacks in 
SF and Seattle. Greg Williamson re-exam- 
ines his radioactive past in Terror of the 
Scientific Sun, looking at nuclear weapons 
past, present and future. Reviews, the 
TransitZone, letters and readers' survey 
responses, poetry and graphics round out 
this 32nd issue of Processed World. As 
always, we hope you like it, find it infuriat- 
ing and informative, and will vent your 
responses in our direction: 
Processed World 
4 1 Sutter Street, #1 829 
San Francisco, CA 94 1 04 
Tel. (415) 626-2979, Fax (415) 626- 
2685 E-mail: 




A few years ago I was feeling frustrated by the intellectu- 
al isolation that resulted from working a series of dreary 
clerical jobs. To alleviate the situation I overcame my usual 
aversion to the over-specialized, ivory tower world of acad- 
emia and took a graduate level seminar at a local university 
on Marxist theory. 

This was when I made a presentation on Marx's theory 
of alienation and used, in that context, the French writer 
Andre Gorz's work Paths to Parodist: On the Liberation from 
Work. Speaking from my section of the class circle (it was 
one of those classes in which the teacher decided we 
should be pseudo-democratic and so we all sat in a circle) I 
presented Gorz's Marxist-influenced vision of a future 
world in which there is a guaranteed "income for life" pred- 
icated on one's doing approximately 20 hours of work a 
week for 20 years in which one helps make, maintain and 
distribute the basic goods (everything from durable clothes, 
such as blue jeans, to refrigerators) produced by semi-auto- 
mated factories of the type that have been coming on line in 
the last ten years. 

How would people spend their free time if all were 
working part-time? Gorz's answer is: whatever so inclines 
them. Since only basic goods would be made in the factories 
individuals would have the time to make more artistic 
goods (e.g., a person with a taste for fashion might design 
and sew more fashionable clothes than the basic clothes 
mass-produced in the factories) in community workshops 
and barter their products for other luxuries of life made by 
others. People of a more intellectual nature, since most 
basic material needs have been met, might forego all luxu- 
ries and spend their time writing or reading; those with a 
more sensual nature might just have sex all the time, etc. 

The class responded with anger and fury. All have 
accepted the consumerist paradigm to such an extent that 
these supposedly visionary thinkers of history (I refer espe- 
cially to Marx but could, I suppose, include Jesus and John 
Locke on a good day) not only can't imagine there being 
more to life than television and Coca Cola, but are threat- 
ened by the very thought of something more. 

— Greg Evans, Tucson, AZ 

Dear Processed Editors: 

I read with amazement and disgust the 
comments by LA-riot denizen "El Chavo." 
He feels the media somehow distorted the 
true meaning of the riot, and left out the 
"fun" and the "incredible spirit of celebra- 
tion." Evidently, Reginald Denny and the 60 
to 80 people slaughtered during this gala 
lovefest were also left out of the celebra- 
tion. Or the hundreds of Korean business- 
es that were torched and destroyed. 

This idiot "El Chavo" feels society 
makes him miserable, therefore he feels 
completely justified in destroying the stores 
and buildings in his neighborhood. Even 
feels he's somehow indulging in revolution- 
ary action or something. And then one day 
when he goes to the store to buy his 
tamales he finds the stores are all boarded 
up, and when he looks for a place to sleep 
he finds the buildings have all been trashed. 
And he'll be the first to complain, and the 
last to see how his own behavior has con- 
tributed to this dismal state of affairs. 

It brings up a point I raised in the past 
that, in my opinion, was never satisfactorily 
answered by the Processed braintrust, 
namely, this whole issue of "sabotage in the 
workplace." After we've all pissed in the 
soup, we — WE! — still have to drink from it. 

"El Chavo," I too have contempt for this 
system, it makes me miserable too. The LA 
riots show how easy it is to trash it But if 
you think that a better alternative is gonna 
somehow magically arise from the ashes, 
you and Processed World are indulging in the 
worst wishful thinking. 

— Ace Backwards, Berkeley, CA 


Selling My Soul: 

I am 39 years old. From 1974- 
84 1 worked as a steelworker 
making cans (actually, we only 
made the body and lids of the 
cans; someone else in another city 
put the cans together). Since 1984 
I have been a student and am cur- 
rently a graduate student in English 
at Cal. 

Thanks largely to the "perks" 
of the two primary jobs of my life 
(factory worker and student), I 
have managed to this point in my 
life to avoid learning how to tie a 
neck-tie. In the 60s, as a kid, I 
wore clip-ons. I didn't wear a 
necktie once in the 1970s. The 
few times I had one in the 1980s, 
my wife tied them for me. 

And then I saw the cartoon in 
Processed World called "How to 
sell your soul in six easy steps." 
This cartoon had diagrams show- 
ing how to tie a necktie. After 
three tries I could do it without 
looking at the cartoon. And so, 
after close to 40 years, I can finally 
tie a necktie. Thanks for helping 
me sell my soul... 

Steven Rubio, Berkeley, CA 

I work for the New York Department of Tax and Finance here in Albany...Bldg. 8 at 
the state campus was a "sick building" for a time. $1.5 million was paid to a politically 
connected engineering firm to "clean" the building just after dozens of women were 
laid off in other agencies...due to "budget constraints" lawsuits are rife because of con- 
tracting out of high paid "consultants." Nonunion bank employees are under mandato- 
ry overtime to do the keyboard scut work and are paid 40% less than state employees. 
We do have a good union. ..the state knows there is a large pool of cheap labor.. .so 
they go to the banks. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is not dealt with by the frigging banks 
or by the state...Oh, you're injured? You're fired! (The banks) 

Anyway, the few people that I know who would be receptive plan to order PW. In the 
years to come, your exemplary work will be most appreciated and talked about..heatedly! 

T.F., Albany. NY 

Dear members of the Processed World: 

Hi! I'm a technical writer. I and Ms. Gasako and Mr. Aki Okabe visited your meeting at last January. Do you remember us? We visited a small party 
of Processed World, and very enjoyed. All attendants are exciting people. While I'm not good at English conversation, I was enjoyed completely. 

Processed World is a magazine criticizing computerized society and office work. It is clear that huge technology is dangerous to human being, 
though capitalists and government are driving to develop new curious technologies. We must be aware of the situation. Processed World warns. 
Sorry for my terrible English. Can you understand? Please call me if there's a chance that a member of Processed World come to Japan! 

— Yasuda, Yukihiro, Tokyo, }apan 


Dear Processed Whine: 

I don't know why I keep buying your tedious little rag. Certainly not for the flatfooted social theorizing (sophomoric), the cartoons (high-schoolish), or 
the poetry and fiction (unspeakable). It must be because I temped in San Francisco for 8 years and it's fun to read about other people's experiences in com- 
panies I worked for (BofA, PacBell, etc.). 

Instead of a technical skill, the secret knowledge you cherish is Marxism. Instead of falling through a space warp, you dream of revolution, of the day 
when you plow up Market Street for bike paths and exile the old men in suits to Fremont The problem is that most of you couldn't organize a T-shirt shop, 
let alone a revolution. The bad attitude you cultivate on the job, like a beggar picking at scabs to keep the sympathy flowing, makes you unfit for the give 
and take of a commune or any cooperative endeavor. But you blither on, shoplifting CDs and copying your novel on the office xerox, imagining that these 
pathetic crimes make you Mao in the caves of Yenan, preparing to topple the Empire. 

I find it odd that so many intelligent, sensitive, socially aware people (or so you say) who hate shit jobs nevertheless continue to do them year after year. 
If you're so smart, why can't you escape? 

— G.H., Ridgewood, N.}. 

Dear Processed World: 

I wrote internal PR — employee communications — for corporations for about ten 
years until escaping about three years ago, terribly afraid that I had redlined my own 
ethical meter so often that I would never find my own voice again. I hated almost every 
line of what I wrote and produced: "we have a commitment to excellence," "we're 
company people," "we have an open door policy for employee concerns," blah blah 
blah. ..I'm now preparing to do fieldwork for a thesis (social anthropology) on the "cult 
of self-expression" — hitting extra hard on all the management pundits who are saying 
that employee creativity is our most precious resource, that companies should encour- 
age their employees to "express their creativity" on the job. Yeah, at $5.50 an hour. I 
am very concerned that the intellect and imagination, long the only refuge from appro- 
priation and colonization by corporations, is now being mapped, mined and exploit- 
ed — until every wretched lowpaying job is defined in terms of its "empowerment" 

— AlK, Beikeley, CA 

To Processed World peoples: 

The wind from Germany has striked here too, and the sce- 
nario now is like this: Political parties have been destroyed 
from the various investigations called "cleaning hands." At the 
right wing the Christian Democrats are now changing name and 
have lost something more than 50 percent of their electoral 
share. At the left wing communists are broken in two parties 
and collectively they lost a little bit. There is a growing of 
Lombard's League, now the first party in the north, and of fascists 
in the south. Racism is their common point of view. For what 
once we called the Movement, what I can see is hopeless. 

What remains from the 70s, you can name Toni Negri from 
Paris, the Paduan Collectives, the Roman intellectuals, seems to be 
agreed to launch a paper of social rights from which to open discus- 
sions with the administrations. There is a more and more strong 
connection between such initiatives and the parts of the communist 
party that yet call itself communist party (the Stalinists). 

The town was never so dead as now. There is a total absence of 
anything. The beginning of an alternative organization of workers, 
a.k.a. Unitary Confederation of Grass Roots, has slowed down its 
growing curve because the economical situation is so desperate that 
people accept the worst things as without alternatives. I think that, if no 
worse happens, in some years we will develop a culture of confrontation 
with long strikes, gathering of money for strikers, etc. At this moment 
the entire country is under shock. All political faces that you can think of 
are in jail or waiting to go in. For what I can see there is no hint of a soli- 
daristic or oppositional culture. In that climate you can see growing atti- 
tude against "niggers and pushers and black prostitutes." The group I was 
collaborating with is semi-dissolved, one has chosen to become a publisher 
of situationist books, and the others are deeply discouraged. 

I want that you read my poor english thinking of the better meaning of 
my words. It's so difficult to express myself in Italian, figure it in English. 

— G.M., Milan, Italy 


Dear Processed World: 

I picked up Bad Attitude: The Processed World 
Artthology at a half-priced bookstore in Chicago last 
month. It is comforting to know there are other like- 
minded people in the world, especially after a bad day 
at work. 

I have been temping for the last fourteen months at 
the IBM Branch office in Kansas City, MO. Kansas City 
is an extremely conservative town and as you already 
know, IBM is equally conservative. When an IBM manag- 
er oinks his opinion (which is well received by most 
IBMers) about how the latest Rush Limbaugh broadcast 
was sooooo profound, no one complains. But if a temp 
complains about unfair treatment, expect the security 
guards to be called! 

I am uncertain whether or not I will be employed 
tomorrow as the "Direct Mail Coordinator" at IBM. My 
manager, who thinks all temps are stupid (she's unaware 
that several of the temps have masters degrees, most have 
bachelors degrees — one even has an electrical engineering 
degree from Yale), felt the shading on a graphic box didn't 
match the other boxes on a document The desktop publisher 
(who is also a temp) reasssured her she used the same shade 
for all the boxes and nobody else except for the manager's 
suck-up sidekick could tell the difference. Since she had given 
me a particularly hard time today (when she finds fault with 
some minor detail, she blurts "Ooh!"), my uncontrolled reac- 
tion, peppered with expletives, was not considered exactly pro- 
fessional even though the Manpower manager agreed her 
comment was beyond normal pettiness. 

However, if I am still employed at IBM tomorrow, I would like 

to utilize some of the creative ideas from your publication. Many 

of the temps have experienced discontent with the organization 

and this corporate environment is a perfect breeding ground for 

budding revolutionaries. 

Joyce Bess worked for IBM for 25 years and took the buy-out 

option (i.e. paid layoff) last year and came back as a Manpower temp 

to work on the switchboard. Since all the clerical jobs and most 

technical jobs are now temporary at IBM, Manpower decided to give 

a $100 bonus as an incentive for perfect attendance each quarter. 

A month after the first quarter ended, the attendance bonus was 

still not awarded to the deserving temps. Several temps complained, 

but Manpower excused themselves by saying, "We don't know how to 

account for the bonus." One temp said, "How about debiting Accounts 


One Friday afternoon. Manpower visited IBM and doled out bags of 

stale popcorn, thinking this gesture would pacify the angry temps. After 

they left the switchboard area, Joyce Bess growled, "I don't want some 

fucking popcorn, all I want is my damn $100!" Joyce forgot her intercom 

was on and her remark was heard by the entire company and the 

Manpower representatives. We got our bonus a week later and Joyce was 

lightly reprimanded (temps who were once IBM employees are treated a 

little better). Joyce found a job working at a daycare center for, get this, 

more pay and left a month later. So much for the Midwest work ethic! 

— S.S., Kansas City, MO 

We sent out one of our periodical (if irregu- 
lar) surveys to our subscribers after our last 
issue. It asked seven questions. The first was 
"When, where and how did you first 
encounter PW?" The second asked how many 
people look at your copy, how many read it 
and what their reaction to it is. The third ques- 
tion asked "What do you like best about PW?" 
it offered an 8-point scale with I being 
"favorite" and 8 being "least liked" and asked 
respondents to evaluate the Poetry, Fiction, 
Graphics, Tales of Toil, Analyses/Essays, 
Reviews, Editorials and Letters from Readers. 

Question number 4 asked "what would you 
like to see in PW in the future, and number 5 
asked "Do you sell your time to buy your sur- 
vival? How?" Number 6, "What language(s) do 
the police in your city speak? What do they 
say?" seemed to confuse a number of respon- 
dents, although others caught its drift. 

The last question, for extra credit and with 
the "Future" theme of PW 32 in mind, asked 
respondents for their vision of the future: 
"What do you expect to happen? What would 
you like to have happen? What would you 
hope not to see?" 

As one might expect from the PW reader- 
ship, the responses were wide-ranging and not 
easily quantifiable. Many didn't bother with the 
multi-point scales offered in the first three 
questions and others used them 
so attempts to generate "real" statistics from 
them are difficult. On the other hand, most 
people who bothered to answer at all (a total 
of 54 subscribers returned completed surveys) 
generally threw in at least some commentary. 
What follows is a brief and qualitative review 
of the responses and a generous sampling of 
the commentary. 

Graphics and Tales of Toil were the clear 
favorites on the 8-point scale, with Poetry and 
Fiction the obvious least favorites. Essays and 
Letters garnered mild support, with positive 
ratings (I to 3) outnumbering negative ones (5 
to 8). Reviews and Editorials got about equal 
amounts of positive and negative evaluations. 

Extracted commentary follows: 

Reader Survey 

(re: q #5 **how do you sell your time") Selling time is one thing I've 
grown reasonably adept at... and stealing it back as well. Last year I was a long-term 
temp for a state hospital billing department, where for forty hours a week I typed 
information onto forms, entered material into computers, you know the deal. 
Workers were divided into "billing teams" according to what portion of the alphabet 
they handled (I was in A - H). The managers overseeing these "teams" encouraged 
competition between them, spurring acrimony and fierce allegiance to one's team... 
we were supposed to loathe the other teams and make ours the very bestest. Since 

we were watched over very closely when at 
our desks I learned to run lots of "errands" for 
people (a trip to the supply room could be 
nicely stretched if I hid what I was "looking 
for" and had thus to fill out absurdly detailed 
requisitions, frequently for non-existent office 
supplies, like "four bottles typewriter ink"). But 
then I moved to where I now live and landed a 
part-time teaching job at a prep school. 

Unfortunately, my wife lost her job (a one- 
year contract that ended) and now I'll be 
teaching part-time and also, most likely, doing 
more clerical work to fill in the formerly idle 
hours. I could live, barely, on my four-digit 
salary from school, but I'm going to have a 
baby in October who'll probable need lots of 
money spent on its care. No matter what, though, I'm absolutely determined to live as 
cheaply as possible, and spend as much time out of my life living it rather than simply 
working to sustain it 

At least I'm not In debt I have a credit card but refuse on principle to use it 
Several of my family live profligate lives filled with restaurant eatin' and purposeless 
acquisition. They own more clothes than I could fit in my whole rented house and are 
so far in the hole I doubt they'll ever be clear. My wife and I are devoted to owning 
less and less. If, and it's unlikely, we can ever afford a house it will be the first time 
we'll ever owe anybody. Consumer debt scares the hell out of me: I'd rather not 
own than o 

(re: q #4 "future issues) 

Quit being so grumpy. It's helpful 
at age 2 1 when just starting out 
in the "full time" work force 
(give or take a few years) but 
near age 30 it gets to be whiny 
and repetitive. Maybe more arti- 
cles on rare good jobs or self- 
employment life good and bad. 

(re: question #7 on "future") I dare not 
venture a guess off- 
hand as to what the 
political future might 
be; I suppose overall 
the human project is 
technology, technol- 
ogy and more tech- 
nology. How this 
jibes with the envi- 
ronment is any- 
body's guess. 

(re: q #5 work) I 

teach innumerable adults 
math. I try to inject political con- 
tent — mathophobia is political. I give 
exercises like "figure out what the author 
is saying with the use of numbers here." 
Students come back outraged at the obfus- 
cation and simplicity (and sometimes 
deceit) being covered up. Teaching is excit- 
ing and fulfilling, though it doesn't quite 
cover my expenses yet. It's also a 
dangerous power trip, a fact of 
which I am aware. 

(re: question #4 on what's liked for future issues) I) economic stories, with 
emphasis on jobs 2) stories on taxes and their impact on workers. 


(re: the 
future; from 
a prisoner) 

The future for the 
proletariat is grim, 
slim and subject to 
change without 
notice. I expect 
the herd to act 
accordingly, pretty 
much as is the pre- 
sent case with the 
uban/avant garde 
milieu consuming 
and paying dues to 
maintain the status 
quo. I hope not to 
see/learn of addi- 
tional coopted 
addicts, institution- 
alized souls and 
emotional desper- 

(re: #3 things I like in PW) a.true 
life stories of people's work experiences. 
b Chris Carlsson's anti ecofascism piece, 
e. Kwazee Wabbltt He's an incredibly 
good writer. Tell him to hang In there! d. 
Your awareness that social activist Institu- 
tions, even those advocating good causes, 
can make particularly bad employers. 
(re: #4, future issues) MORE 
DEPTH OF THOUGHT. I cant stand 
the idea that all institutions are equally 
bad and the WesCiv should be destroyed 
without careful consideration of what 
comes next. This unilateral 'all work 
should be abolished' trip comes across as 
really shallow. 

[30] Dear Pow-Wows: 

I'd like to add a few tips and caveats to Sal Acker's "How to Scam Your Way Through College" (PW 31). Like Acker I'm 
one of those "professional students" who provoke envy and/or disgust from folks who have to work for a living, fear and hatred 
from the bosses (who quite rightly see professional studenthood as an escape from wage slavery), and bemused tolerance from 
most liberal-minded academics. I've been a professional student for over 1 7 years studying filmmaking, shamanism, music, pho- 
tography, French, Spanish, Italian, poll sci, tennis, basketball, history, you name it and accumulating degrees in French, English 
and Journalism while racking up around $50,000 in student loan debt and almost completely avoiding paid work. As an 
undergraduate in the late '70s my philosophy was much like Acker's — I selected classes primarily on the basis of how lit- 
tle work I could get away with putting into them. But after stupidly graduating in only five years I asked myself what I'd 
learned from all those skipped classes and easy multiple-choice exams and wondered if there might be a better way. 
So when I dived back Into school shortly thereafter — community college film, photo & language courses, then var- 
ious M.A. programs — I chose time-consuming bust-ass courses that helped me develop my talents In areas I 
enjoyed. I'm now fluent In three languages, working on two more, and know my way around cameras, dark- 
rooms, film and recording technologies, guitars, computers and literary history. I'm a scammer in the sense 
that I don't give a shit about grades, degrees or making a living in the conventional way. But I enjoy 
putting effort into the course I take — why else would I take them? — so professors don't mind me hang- 
ing around and the grade thing takes care of itself. If you're blatantly trying to get by with minimal 
effort — especially If you don't know much about the subject and obviously don't care to learn — 
your professors and classmates will consider you a dumb, annoying bore who shouldn't be there. 
(The question "would you be there if you weren't getting paid for it? applies to the classroom 
as well as the workplace.) The know-nothing brand of "bad attitude" won't do much for 
your long-term prospects as an academic scammer, nor as a well-rounded human being. 
PS Logistical tips: 
I) Put your first student loan into a large, livable vehicle step-van, cabover truck, or old 
motor home — school buses draw cops like flies to shit and little old ladies think you're 
dumping in the streets. Teach yourself auto mechanics, scam tools with your Sears 
and Wards student credit cards and you'll never have to pay rent again. 
2) If you're a grad student your $7,500-a-year loan will easily pay for a year 
In your favorite foreign country via an exchange program. I spent a year in 
Paris and could have not worked at all, but chose to teach a subversive 
version of U.S. history at a private language school for a few extra 
francs. If you choose a third-world country you can live fine on an 
undergraduate loan/aid package. 

3) Get all the credit cards you can — if you're a student most card 
companies don't check your income. Then max 'em out and 
blow 'em off. Exception: keep your American Express 
card, which entitles students to three round-trip flights 
within the U.S for under $200 each on Continental. I've 
flov\m cheap so often I've accumulated enough frequent 
flier mileage for a free trip to Europe. 
4) As the screw gradually tightens loan limits, red 
tape, tuition hikes — don't just scam, 
PROTEST. In France every high school grad- 
uate has the right to a FREE college educa- 
tion all the way through grad school. 
Every time the government tries to 
charge a nominal tuition the students 
riot clogging traffic, trashing gov- 
ernment buildings and generally 
raising hell. The government 
inevitably relents. California 
students would still be 
paying zero tuition (as 
In the '60s) if they 
just organized and 
Sacramento a 
few times. 

(re: future) 

Mass culture 
will continue to 
degenerate into 








stupidity and 
Almost nobody 
can read any 
more. My ambi- 
tion is to get 
escape this city 
and forget about 
the world going 
to hell. 


3 2 

7 9- 

-3|!qM e Uj 33UO aujuj us!|qnd p,no/ qsjM | ^nq ? 

(re: comments) More Tom Tomorrow! More Ace 
Backwords! You create one of the most consistently inter- 
esting and provocative works of anarchy around. 
(re: future) I expect more of the same. I would hope 
that the US economy collapses into chaos and that the Left 
revives and begins connecting people up with the Rainbow 
Coalition, Greens, etc. but I'm afraid Pat Buchanan- 
style Nazism is much more likely to develop as the 
paradigm of the future. 

Reader Survey 

(re: #7 future; from a German reader) I hope that the visibly strong tendencies towards repressive security states (in Fortress Europe) can be 


(re: #7) More layoffs, more unem- 
ployment, more minimum wage jobs 
and lower pay for non-minimum 
wage jobs; more right-wing political 
movements for white people 
to let off steam and 
express their fears. The 
Religious Right is the 
closest thing I've seen to 
the Nazis yet! Keep 
feeding drugs and 
guns to the minorities and 
build more jails for them if 
they bother the suburbanites. More 
entertainment/media options and 
better junk food to keep people fat, 
dumb and happy. 

(re: #6 on cops) Although I live next door to an Irish cop, and have sev- 
eral more down the block from me, I don't say too much to them. I usually 
just wave and stay out of their way. The cop next door smokes a lot of cig- 
arettes and fights with his wife. I can usually hear him clearing his throat 
of phlegm every morning. His teenage kids often hang out on our front 
porch at night, keep us up a lot and make asses of themselves. 
(re: #7) I would like to see more work done to help rebuild 
cities, neighborhoods and communities torn by violence, drugs 
and street gangs. At the very least we could repair all the pot- 
holes in the streets. Housing redevelopment and sustainable 
communities are the key to a better life, not more shopping 
plazas, video arcades and Popeye's Chicken shacks or 
Subway sandwich shops. I would like to see our system 
work toward an economy of needs and not kinky pro- 
jects and developments that benefit a few. Given the 
amount of technology we work with we could 
definitely reduce the working week to 
3 days (for a start) and eventually bring that 
down to about 5 hours a week. I don't 
foresee this happening in my lifetime, but 
one never knows. 

(re: future) I hope to see vast geographical sections of 
the USA secede from the union. There's not much 
that an Easterner 
has in common 
with a 

Southerner or 
vice versa, except 
for McD's, phony 
baloney news 
shows and a will- 
ingness to believe 
anything the 
authority figures 
tell them. If this 
can't be done I'll 
make my own 
flag with beer 
bottles, butts and 
pizza on it, buy 
some land and 
welcome all com- 

The US of A, 
not relevant 
anymore; we 

should follow the example of 
the Soviet Union: let's break 
it up! 








Please publish all back issues as 

CD-ROM for fast reference! 

PS Hey! Where's the question about 


want to know what DISH SOAP I use? 



Trading Futures 

The Abolition of the Economy 

The Economy has penetrated 
our imaginations to the point 
that we identify its 
abstractions with society itself — 
even our own personalities. We 
engage in buying and selling when 
we negotiate intimacy; to accept is 
to "buy," to improve is to "profit." 
Professional advice-dispensers tell 
us to cultivate "friendships" that will 
advance our careers. Our 
communities are planned real-estate 
ventures. We 
confront one 
another as rivals; 
egotism is a virtue. 
Material success is 
salvation, while 
poverty is criminal. 
The bank balance 
from the ATM 
machine puts a 
numerical value on 
your human 
worth — maybe even 
whether you live or die. 

What do we mean when we refer to the 
Economy? We instinctively Hnk it to all our 
social evils — degrading jobs, clear-cut forests, 
wars, cancer, teenage suicides, soaring murder 
rates, and so on. But before any of these prob- 
lems can even be addressed, the Economy must 
be placated by ever more sacrifice, a process 
which just compounds the problems. The index 
of social health at the end of the evening news is 

That the distribution 

of social wealth can 

be considered a 

strictly amoral 

enterprise (as in our 


society) is the Big Lie 

of the economists. 

the Dow Jones average, not the infant mortality 
rate. The Economy is our religion; its temples 
are the banks that tower over our shell-shocked 
cities. We can't imagine a world without the 
Economy any more than an ecclesiastic can 
imagine life without a supernatural God. 

Obviously, all societies must organize the 
material means of life. But our society inverts the 
relationship of means to ends and makes what 
should be merely a /precondition for life into the 
meaning of life. Our economic relations are not 
(in Karl Polanyi's word) "embedded" in our 
social relationships; instead, our social relation- 
ships are subservient to the Economy. A distinct 
and separate sphere above 
and beyond other social 
activities, the Economy 
makes everything depen- 
dent on the market. Ruled 
solely by prices, the market 
can allow no other values or 
considerations. Culture no 
longer subordinates the 
Economy (as it should), but 
has become utterly subor- 
dinated to it. 

To "economize" is an 
everyday compulsion in a 
market-dominated society 
which exposes the underly- 
ing false premise of economics: that whereas 
desires are unlimited, the means of satisfying 
them are not. The Economy depends on expand- 
ing dissatisfaction; as desires are fulfilled, new 
desires must be stimulated to keep people buy- 
ing. Market economies assume that people do 
not have rational needs, but must be constantly 
dazzled by advertising — without which, the 
Economy would probably collapse. 

Scarcity in our over-productive society is artifi- 


3 2 

cial; one of the economists' great accom- 
plishments is to mystify this with scien- 
tific pretensions about "laws of supply 
and demand," "price mechanisms," etc. 
Poverty is not the result of how much 
wealth is available, but how it is distrib- 
uted. Between one-half and one-third of 
humanity goes hungry while food rots in 
warehouses because the market is the 
only mode of distribution that the rich 
will permit. As the Somali saying has it: 
"Scarcity and abundance are never far 
apart. The rich and the poor live in the 

same house." 

The unique autonomy of the Economy 
is a result of the rules of market 
exchange. The market divorces the 
Economy from society by making every- 
one's livelihood dependent on the precar- 
ious sale of labor. Profits become the 
overriding end of all human enterprise. It 
is catastrophic to make the fear of hunger 
and the quest for profits socially enforced 
incentives to participation in material 
life—a catastrophe that has acquired glob- 
al dimensions. Based on the imperative 



Grow or Die, competing economic enti- 
ties such as corporations or nations must 
constantly expand in the search for new 
outlets, a parasitical process which will 
only be exhausted by the likely death of 
the biosphere. 

Origins of the Economy 

Economics derives from the Greek 
word oikonomia: management of the 
household. The distance between the 
ancient and modern notions of econom- 
ics can be perceived if one notes the utter 
irrationality of applying the character 
homo oeconomicus to domestic relation- 
ships, where it is still considered patho- 
logical for family members to act as 
self-interested competitors. For the 
ancient Greeks, "householding" was pro- 
duction for one's group's own use 
(autarky, or self-sufficiency) — not for 
gain or money-making, which was 
regarded as "not natural to man" 
(Aristotle) because of its purposeless and 
anti-social character. 

Markets have a long history. However, 
before capitalism, markets were always 
accessory to social relations (kin, tribe, 
religion, etc.); they did not control and 
regulate them. During the European 
Middle Ages, markets were limited in 
time (Sundays) and place (usually outside 
the church). However much honored in 
the breach, sanctions against usury — 
profit-making off the material needs of 
others — expressed fears of the socially 
corrosive aspects of the market. Pre- 
modern marketplaces such as bazaars or 
agoras preserved ritual social obser- 
vances, often beginning wath gossip and 
talk, then tea, family matters, and even- 
tually discussion about the wares on 
offer — produced by the seller, who took 
a pride in the quality of his craftsman- 
ship — and haggling or barter. Contrast 
this with our experience at the Mall — 
the Panopticon surveillance, the anony- 
mous, indifferent sales people, the 
electronic registers to calculate inflexible 
prices, the built-in obsolescence and 
often poisonous products. 

The unregulated market economy took 
off" in 19th-century Europe. Capitalism 
turned people (labor) and nature (land) 
into commodities — inanimate instru- 
ments to be bought and sold. Whereas 
earlier societies had preserved every- 
body's access to the "commons" to 


ensure survival and social cohesion, capi- 
talism organized access to the means of 
life through production for sale, and 
prices determined by market allocation. 
The much-extolled "freedom" of the 
market requires the fragmentation of 
community bonds. 

Economics as a science emerged as the 
analysis of this increasingly separate and 
autonomous market. The ideas of the 
neo-classical economists promoted 
allegedly permanent and universal truths 
about humanity and society. The pursuit 
of material gain compelled by the market 
was not seen as behavior forced on peo- 
ple as the only possible way to earn a liv- 
ing, but as prudent and rational behavior. 
To the economists, society is nonexistent 
except as a bunch of people without con- 
cern for each other; improvement in eco- 
nomic statistics is more important than 
whatever social disruptions result from it; 
human beings are utilitarian atoms pos- 
sessed by an innate "propensity to truck, 
barter and exchange" (as Adam Smith 
claimed); and material maximization and 
the primacy of self-interest are constants 
of all societies. This cynical worldview 
became a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

Trade \^ithout Profit 

Formal economics presumes that its 
"value-free" scientific laws must be uni- 

versally applicable. It sees non-market 
societies as underdeveloped versions of 
our own. While it might be accepted that 
other peoples have different religious, 
political, or kinship systems, economic 
relations are considered to be immutable. 
Economics sees all societies as supply- 
demand mechanisms — not expressions 
of living relationships. However, anthro- 
pology can show us the unimportance of 
economic relationships. "We must rid 
ourselves of the ingrained notion that the 
economy is a field of experience of which 
human beings have necessarily always 
been conscious," the anthropologist 
Marcel Mauss said. 

Anthropologists have observed among 
many societies the principle of 
usufruct — that is, the right of anyone to 
borrow another's property (tools, land, 
etc.) if it is returned in the same condi- 
tion. Because the use of this stuffs benefits 
the entire community, the notion of 
individual property rights above and 
beyond those of the group is unknown. A 
glimmer of usufruct is evident in periods 
of social rebellion when the disenfran- 
chised loot the granaries, temples, palaces 
or malls and redistribute the goods for 
the consumption of all. This is as old as 
written history — as recorded by the 
Sumerians during the riots in Lagash or 
the Egyptian peasants who rose against 

the nobility of the Middle Kingdom 
(2500 B.C.) — and as recent as last year's 
Los Angeles riots. 

Gift economies further undermine the 
universality of our perverse economic 
notions of exchange. The American 
Indians of the Northwest coast stretching 
from Cape Mendocino in California up 
to Prince Williams Sound in Alaska prac- 
ticed gift-giving ceremonies known as 
potlatch, a celebration for distributing 
wealth and sealing social relations. 
Similarly, the Massim peoples of the 
Trobriand Islands near New Guinea had 
lavish disaccumulation festivals known as 
kulas. In both these institutions, gift 
exchange functions as part of what Mauss 
calls a "total social phenomenon" — eco- 
nomic, juridical, moral, aesthetic, reli- 
gious, mythological — whose meaning 
cannot be adequately described by reduc- 
ing its function solely to an economic 

The measure of wealth among the 
Trobrianders and the Northwest coast 
Indians is society itself — all those people 
who band together in a daily life in which 
material wealth is shared and distributed 
as gifts. Social prestige is inextricably 
linked to generosity. The purpose of the 
giving of gifts is to keep gifts in circula- 
tion, and give counter-gifts — not to 
become the venerated acquisitions of 


individual owners. What comes around 
goes around. Unless shared, gifts are 
property that perish like food, from 
which the word "potlatch" derives. 
Similarly, in the kula, the gift not reused 
is considered lost, while the one that is 
passed along "feeds" over and over again, 
thus remaining abundant. 

Although highly personalized, these 
ceremonies are not evidence of small- 
scale or primitive economics, but are in 
fact consciously elaborate. The kula 
shows that the wider and more varied the 
territory, the more exotic the produce 
and goods. Contrary to the economists' 
universalization of scarcity as a perma- 
nent feature of human society, the kula is 
actually an exuberant display of affluence. 

The kula and the potlatch were not 
motivated by the prospect of individual 
gain; nor was labor performed for remu- 
neration. Despite their complexity, they 
thrived without administration or written 
records, much less money. They are 
examples of reciprocity and redistribu- 
tion — principles not very esteemed by 
our culture's Survival of the Fittest out- 
look. Economics can offer an analysis of 
the junk bond market, but it is a very 
limited tool for understanding the face- 
to-face relationships of gift-based soci- 
eties. The individual players in these 
societies are personalized, not anony- 
mous. It is absurd to view the kula as an 
investment yielding interest. 

The pathology of our culture's avari- 
cious hoarding of social wealth was evi- 
dent to the Indians who came into 
contact with Europeans. "Indian giver" — 
a term of abuse — was coined by New 
England Puritans to describe the activities 
of the Indians (shortly before they killed 
them), who often sought the return of 
items they had given the settlers because 
the purpose of the gift was to be kept in 
circulation among different users, not 
settled in the home of a private "owner." 

I don't want to exalt the gift economy. 
The exchange of gifts can be onerous and 
burdensome; customs can be irrational. 
The commodity form is potentially 
incipient within symbolic exchange, hon- 
oring various types of hierarchy. My 
sketches of the kula and the potlatch are 
necessarily simplistic. However, I am less 
interested in what the anthropologists 
teach us about the Trobrianders and the 
Kwakiutl than what they tell us about our 

own society which produces, among 
other things, anthropologists. 

Gift-economies bespeak an ideal of 
value which is inextricable from the 
social relations in which the activity of 
gift-giving takes place. That the distribu- 
tion of social wealth can be considered a 
strictly amoral enterprise (as in our mar- 
ket-controlled society) is the Big Lie of 
the economists. The banishment of con- 
science as a social principle is seen as 
progress; hence the mean spiritedness of 

Economics sees all 
societies as supply- 
mechanisms — not 
expressions of living 

all public discourse today. Gift-giving 
consolidates and enhances social bonds, 
while market exchange sunders them. 
This is still observed in our own neurotic 
gift-giving ceremonies, especially 

In Minima Moralia, Adorno succinctly 
described the fate of the gift in our 
Hallmark card culture: 

Real giving had its joy in imagining the joy of 
the receiver. It means choosing, expending time, 
going out of one's way, thinking of the other as 
a subject: the opposite of distraction. Just this 
hardly anyone is now able to do. At the best 
they give what they would have liked them- 
selves, only a few degrees worse. The decay of 
giving is measured in the distressing invention 
of gift-articles, based on the assumption that one 
does not know what to give because one does 
not want to. This merchandise is unrelated like 
its buyers. It was a drug in the market from the 
first day. Likewise, the right to exchange the 
article, which signifies to the recipient: take this, 
it's all yours, do what you like with it; if you 
don't want it, that's all the same to me, get 
something else instead. Moreover, by compari- 
son with the embarrassment caused by ordinary 
presents this purefungibility represents the more 
human alternative, because it at least allows the 
receiver to give himself a present, which is 
admittedly in absolute contradiction to the gift. 

Human history is not a finite project: 

we do not have to repeat everything that 
has happened before, even if the past can 
provide a rich guide for future social 
innovation. I believe that it will be essen- 
tial for our future to recover the authen- 
tic spirit of gift-giving. Capitalism may 
have severed (for some) archaic obliga- 
tions and duties, but it has chained every- 
one to a new master — an invisible one at 
that, which pits us against one another! 

The Left Embrace of the 

The Utopian socialists called for a life 
which subordinates the Economy to our 
cultural relationships. Their legacy has 
been perverted by the traditional Left 
which protests the injustices of capitalism 
but has shown itself to be hopelessly 
mired in the economistic mentality. The 
loss of the Utopian ideal can be felt with 
painful clarity by a look at the Left 
today — giving new meaning to demorzX- 
ization. Appeals are strictly to bread-and- 
butter issues, which no matter how 
important, ignore the fact that most peo- 
ple — even hungry people — are more 
than just stomachs. It's no wonder that 
the Right has been in ascendancy for well 
over a decade given its focus on issues 
long ignored by leftists. In its dedication 
to a losing game of realpolitik, the Left 
can deliver nothing but windy exhorta- 
tions for more jobs — even if that means 
putting police uniforms on the jobless 
and sending them to control the public. 

Leftist planning shares the faith that 
social problems can be remedied by eco- 
nomic means, that the economic roles in 
our lives — as workers and consumers — 
are levers for renewal. Rather than ques- 
tioning the categories of economic 
reason — based on abstraction, calculation 
and quantification — the Left enhances 
the Economy's prestige by equating it 
with the liberatory project. "Economic 
democracy" reinforces the market con- 
cept of humans: we are consumers of 
rights (bequeathed from above), not 
social beings capable of autonomous 


Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel's 

concept of participatory economics, pub- 
lished as Looking Forward (South End 
Press: 1991), makes an admirable attempt 
to envision a non-market organization of 
life, but falls into the trap of bookkeeper 
socialism. They divide social life into 

1 2 


Production and Consumption coun- 
cils — a bogus and arbitrary dualism. Is 
food produced or consumed? No doubt 
when com is grown by farmers, it is pro- 
duced; when eaten by a steel worker, it is 
consumed. Yet isn't food necessary for 
the production of steel? Isn't food as 
much a tool of humanity as the tractor? 
Isn't the steel worker's dwelling as neces- 
sary for her to be productive as it is in 
some sense space that she "consumes"? 
And how do you quantify a piece of 
music? Is it a luxury or a necessity to a 
vital and active intelligence? 

Another assumption guiding economic 
thought that the Left uncritically accepts 
is that one only gives in order to receive. 
MaJthus, the miserable rightwing econo- 
mist who invented the bogus theory of 
"overpopulation," wrote that we must 
"consider man as he really is, inert, slug- 
gish, and averse from labour unless com- 
pelled by necessity" — a restatement, by 
the way, of Newton's first law of motion. 
Similarly, socialist economists have gone 
to all kinds of lengths to devise a system 
whereby goods are justly allocated on the 
basis of work contributed. Even after the 
abolition of the market and the socializa- 
tion of property, the surplus will still be 
meted out according to a form of wages: 
namely, notes certifying quantities of 
labor time. This still preserves work as 
compulsive, alienated activity, subordi- 
nating people to things — what's called 
"idolatry" in some contexts. 

How does one measure the contribu- 
tion of an individual to society? As soon 
as the legitimacy of this question is grant- 
ed, human society is insulted by subject- 
ing the individual to a degrading and 
ultimately meaningless system of com- 
parison. Feminists have pointed out the 
way our society systematically devalues 
occupations associated v^nth women — i.e. 
housework, nursing, social work, teach- 
ing, cultural activities (not surprisingly, 
those that involve a degree of gift-giv- 
ing) — ^while valorizing traditionally male- 
dominated professions such as banking 
and law. This invidious calculation is 
operative throughout the wage system. Is 
street-sweeping less essential to public 
health than the more prestigious and 
lucrative jobs of doctors? Where does one 
person's work lead off and another's 

begin — i.e., the professor who relies on 
his graduate students for suggestions and 
research? How could an aerospace 
designer realize his plans without a 
welder? Giving in order to get: the same 
alienated labor that reduces social life to a 
series of bargains between negotiators 
rather than relationships among equals. 

Examples of non-alienated labor 
abound, even in our crazed market soci- 
ety: the passion of the artist who endures 
obscurity and poverty because she is 
guided by a pursuit more compelling 
than fame or money; scientists who 
endure ostracism and years of painstaking 
research for the beauty of discovery itself 
Blood and organs are donated as a gift of 
life, even if the U.S. medical industry 
markets them for profit. We have all had 
the experience of doing a person a favor, 
helping someone in distress, and know- 
ing that the pleasure comes from the 
deed itself — not because we get some 
payment in return. In fact, it is an insult 
to be oflfered money for doing our good 
deed. I believe this gift-giving principle 
must be applied to everything we do in 
order to break the stranglehold of the 

I'm not proposing that everybody work 
for free. Obviously, we are already over- 
burdened by an excess of philanthropy — 
why else do we work for the enrichment 

of others whom we never meet and who 
would just as soon nuke us? Nor do I 
want the rich to become more charitable, 
which is just a tactic by which they nego- 
tiate the class barrier. Instead, we should 
recreate society itself by abolishing the 

"Time is money," goes the saying, and 
we are running out of both. Like time, 
money makes everything identical. Just as 
no moment is ever the same — no matter 
how many ten o'clocks, Tuesdays, 
Septembers, etc. occur — so no two things 
in a liberated society would ever be the 
same, nor no two activities commensu- 
rable. Measurement has its place, but its 
triumph over life itself in the form of 
prices must be re-assessed. 

As the 19th-century anarchist Wilhelm 
Weitling prophesied: "A time wall come 
when. ..we shall light a vast fire with ban- 
knotes, bills of exchange, wills, tax regis- 
ters, rent contracts and I.O.U.s and 
everyone will throw his purse into the 
fire." Let's stop looking to the Dismal 
Science for solutions and begin creating a 
science of pleasure, human enrichment 
and a new sociability. 

— Mickey D. 

We have borrowed graphics rather freely from the brilliant 
French street artist Jean-Fran(ois Batellier since the very 
first issue q/'Processed World in / 981 . He actually 
has a wonderful book IS ANYBODY OUT 
THERE? available from Free Association Books, 26 
Freegrove Rd., London N7 9RQ, England, for $14.00. 


1 3 


Bwind steadily beat ^^^^^^H^MBIH seconds later she felt that 
her face as she walked along the irritating "thunk" behind her eyes. The 
cliffs overlooking the ocean. Suddenly black box unfolded into the control 
a large black box emerged from the room at the plant — flashing red lights 

path behind her ... she heard the telltale indicated a system failure in sector 3, 

1 4 


the lubrication center. 

She automatically punched up a 
series of commands, dispatching repair 
staff and moving a remote backup unit 
to support the built-in second as it 
smoothly filled the gap left by its failed 
predecessor. Immediately the whirring 
rush began. An intense hit of endor- 
phin pleasure overwhelmed her as she 
was soon again strolling along the 
coastal cliffs. 

After a deep breath she relaxed back 
into a contemplative reverie. Just a 
few minutes later a flashing red light 
among some rocks caught her eye. 
She reached out, smiling, and 
caressed the surface of the bulb. A 
voice emanated from the rock: 

"Hi honey. A package arrived on 
today's download... looks like some 
new drivers. \bu wanna take one for 
a spin?" The voice cackled mischie- 
vously. "You are the best, you know," 
it wheedled in a flattering but obse- 
quious tone. 

Standing back from the bulb, Angie 
looked at her hand, then around at 
the slightly pixilated coastline. She 
sighed. Everything was so boring. 
"New drivers, new drivers, people 
always gettin' so excited 'bout new 
drivers, ecch!" she muttered. She 
was good at pushing new Workface 
Interspaces® (WI) to their limits. 
Whatever they threw at her, within a 
couple of hours she had crashed it. 
She started by changing too much in 
the artificial environment and over- 
loading the channel. When they put a 
timer on her to pace her activities, she 
gave it very long, multiple link com- 
mands which soon overloaded it 

But she also quickly learned how to 
get the most out of the Wl when it 
was installed. Many days would pass 
as she dreamily wandered through 
rainforests, coral reefs, deserts and 
mountains, only seeing her actual 
worksite for five minutes each morn- 
ing and evening. Sometimes she 

would take in historic boxing match- 
es — she had ringside seats three dif- 
ferent times to see the second 
Ali-Frazier fight. The Louis- 
Schmelling bout was another 
favorite. Once in a while she'd go to 
the opera, or maybe a musical, but it 
was easy to find actual shows around 
town so she preferred to explore his- 
tory, or at least that sugar-coated col- 
lection of skimpy, implausible fairy 
tales they called WIstory. She once vis- 
ited a simulation of A. Mitchell 
Palmer and J. Edgar Hoover dis- 
cussing the nationwide arrest of 
10,000 radical workers on January 3, 
1920, many of whom were later 
deported without any due process. 
The self-congratulatory cigars and 
excited fidgeting of Hoover had fasci- 
nated her even as it repelled her, and 
she had tried to kick over the table but 
found she was locked out of any real 
interaction. Angie later found a way to 
place Emma Goldman in the room 
and within minutes she had both men 
sputtering mad, turning red, trying to 
grab Emma as she gave them a good 
dose of her rage and passionate con- 
victions but escaping every grope and 
reach. This was fun until Angie 
brought in Louise Bryant and they 
behaved exactly the same way and it 
was clear that the behavioral possibili- 
ties were in fact very limited. Later 
experiments revealed that they could 
only have three different ranges of 
emotional response, which upon fur- 
ther reflection, wasn't much worse 
than most people! 

This was the problem for Angie: 
she knew people were infinitely more 
creative and interesting than these 
simulations, but the more time she 
spent with simulations, the more she 
could see how limited her fellow 
humans were. A foul misanthropy 
began to fester in her soul. She lost all 
sense of connection to the people 
around her. 

She worked for 17 more years at 

that plant before it was further auto- 
mated and she was laid off along with 
5 of the remaining 1 1 workers. The 
pension plan promised unlimited 
access to WIstory, or any two other 
Vironoments of your choice at retire- 
ment. Angie thought about it long 
and hard before selecting Coastal 
Commune circa 1971, Madison 
Square Garden 1948, and a beautiful 
Greek island 2010 (well before the 
war and Turkey's nuclear attack in 
2016). She sold her organs in 
advance, bought a long-term mainte- 
nance contract from The Body Bag, 
ate the WI Toggle Switch^'' to get back 
and forth between Vironoments, 
plugged herself in at the Body Bag 
Center, and lived happily ever after. 

Slowly he inched forward, almost 
hovering behind a small blue sports 
car. To his right a huge truck was head- 
ing to a superstore, and on his left a 
tour bus sped towards gambling suc- 
cess in the desert, boxing him in cozily. 
Traffic was really slow today, but Herb 
didn't mind. In fact, he had just 
installed the Rfd Light/Green Light Traffic 
Delay Simulator after downloading it 
from the Job Survival Library at his 
local Telecommuter Bulletin Board, 
and he was really pleased at the realism. 

Over 30 years ago he had driven 
with his father to work one day, not 
long before the mandatory shuttle 
system was installed. That old 
Subaru-bishi had been retired along 
with a dozen neighbors' "good ole 
cars" in a big block party and sledge- 
hammer competition. He had gotten 
a good whack or two, even though 
he'd only been about five or six. The 
deeply corrupt Oil Era was over soon 
after that, but Americans' nostalgia 
for it was as strong as the incompre- 
hensible adulation of Stalin that still 
motivated millions in Russia. 

Five years ago Telecommuters 


3 2 

Associations (TAs) had swept across 
the country, establishing standards 
and sharing information among mil- 
lions of isolated telecommuters. 
Every local TA BBS had been 
swamped with new contacts as soon 
as it opened. Chapters sprung up 
across the country, typically meeting 
in large country & western bars in 
prosperous suburbs. Cyberwestern 
Drinking Holes, Unlimited went 
public and thanks to the still strong 
desire to drink socially, their formula 
was a winner, their IPO was a huge 
success, and a curious political power 
was bom: telecommuters who would 
leave home to meet at leather-covered 
C&W bars with air-conditioned 
tables, allowing for those who could- 
n't make it by conducting live video 
meetings over PubChan 5.32A in 
most area codes. A 20% tax on each 
CDH's proceeds was kicked back to 
the local TA, funding its ongoing 
organizing, and providing a steady 
stream of drinkers and smokers. 
Meanwhile a renewed style of face- 
to-face discussion took place, leading 
to many animated evenings in which 
wild scheming and far-fetched 
dreaming competed for attention 
with encryption protocols and re-use 
agreements. The process of public 
discussion with call-in direct partici- 
pation produced an extraordinary 
euphoria among its participants, 
spreading contagiously as a greed for 
authenticity swept the people. 

Herb steered his sedan into the left 
lane as he saw an opening, and he 
accelerated by clutching the senso- 
rod in his palm. Then he braked sud- 
denly by slamming down on the tip 
as the entire freeway slowed again to a 
crawl, red tail lights crowding his 
view. He brought his vehicle to a nice 
meditative stop-n-go, and began to 
daydream. He touched the authentic 
radio knobs and tuned in to an AM 
station with old rock from the 1950s. 
He started to imagine what he might 

do later that night when he realized 
that he was going to be late again. It 
was already 8:37 and he was still a 
good 15 minutes from work. Part of 
the realism o( Red Light/Green Light 
was the locking system that forced 
you to stay with it even if you decided 
you'd rather abort and get on to work. 
It imposed the unpredictability and 
inconvenience along with the nostal- 
gically pleasing time in the car. 

As one of the main Telecommuter 
activists that fought for Equal 
Commute Time Rights, Herb was 
pretty embarrassed when he got stuck 
like this. He had been fierce in his 
certainty that serious and unavoidable 
delays would be extremely rare if the 
system were designed properly. And 
he had beta-tested it for months, so 
he couldn't avoid the chagrin and 
shame that swept over him as he 
drummed his fingers on his desk, 
waiting for the stupid Virtual Traffic 
Jam to clear his screen. 



He fumbled through the bon bons, 
finally choosing an oblong one. His 
eyes were glued to the screen, the col- 
ors flashing in his face in the other- 
wise dark room. Outside it was bright 
and sunny, but Frank hadn't taken a 
look for quite a long time. Thick 
musty drapes covered every window 
in the dank, yellowed apartment. The 
6-foot square screen in his bedroom 
made the room seem a lot larger, "like 
a window on the world™," he 
thought. He liked to have several 
shows on at once, so he wouldn't 
miss any really good deals. He was 
really fast and had an encyclopedic 
knowledge of prices and the 
Producing Countries. If a shirt was 
made by Viemamese workers in San 
Francisco or Indonesians in Sydney 
or Angolans in Rio de Janeiro, he 
knew if it was well-sewn, good cot- 
ton, euerything! He was as fascinated 

by trying to calculate the world's 
cheapest producer as he was by the 
obsessive purchase of things he 
would never use. 

I stopped by once, to ask his advice 
about something I was going to buy, 
I forget what. His eyes never left the 
screen as he waved me to sit down 
and wait. He leaned forward, punch- 
ing furiously at his calculator pad 
and then typing in prices, styles and 
sizes, breathing heavily and sweating 
profusely. When he sent his order 
and waited for the displays to arrive 
to his screen, he clutched a 
SuperBigGulp'oFizz and sucked on 
the straw so hard he turned purple. 

"Of course, you DOGS!" he 
exclaimed admiringly, looking quickly 
back and forth from his laptop to the 
TV. He punched his remote to 
enlarge the Shanghai Bazaar, and 
punched again to bring in his 
Shopper®. I was astonished to see a 
trim handsome young man appear 
from the right of the screen, give us 
the obligatory wink, nod, thumbs up, 
and crossed fingers, and turn to enter 
the Bazaar. Frank's Shopper® bore no 
resemblance to the wheezing 400-lb. 
blob of flesh and sweat controlling 
this "Interactive Excursion for 
Acquisition" or lEA (generally pro- 
nounced "YAYI")*. 

Intense narrowcasting swept retail- 
ing in the past few years but the 
Shanghai Bazaar, live from Shanghai, 
still held the superstore charm of the 
old Wal-Mart Channel. You could 
find anything — their slogan invoked 
another time too: If we don't have it, 
you don't need it! And the Chinese 
were nearly always able to give the 
best quality for the least, controlling 
production all over Asia as they did. 

"Goin' Yay" had become the major activity for millions, 
gradually destroying that late 20th century remnant of 
true sociability, the Mall. The chokehold of the oil/auto 
industrial monster was firully broken when TV shopping 
replaced most other kinds and gasoline consumption 
dropped by 50% in a year and a half Capital finally wrote 
off the old dead investments of the 20th century and went 
Bi-Eco in what we've come to know as "A New Deal For 
A New Century"® 

1 6 


3 2 

The unbelievable dashing young dizzying way these Shoppers'^ always lacra began the bargaining. 
Frank Shopper^ bounded into the sea do, in a sweatband shop. Frank rode "I'd like to try on at least five." 
of neon, soon halting abruptly in the his "hard line" button as his simu- The Salesulacra gave a sort of "are 

There Wos Nothing ON...That She Couldn't Turn Off! 

Out of the Far East she came; a worker in the Malaysian Export Processing Zone. It 
seemed a routine factory accident, but when she pulled her arm from the vat of 
solvents, she was horrified to find a remote control where once she had a hand! 

She was determined to use her new powers to silence the technologies that had done 
so much damage. After a meditative retreat, she emerged as: 


1 7 

1 8 

you kidding?" sneer directly at us, but 
smiled and suggested that two selec- 
tions were customarily enough to 
arrive at a satisfactory purchase. 

Frank grinned as he joined the bat- 
tle, and he had his Shopper® begin 
backing out of the shop. 

"No, NO! Please, my friend, come 
and see what you like... but you must 
buy at least two." 


"Before you protest let me say that 
we are offering a special deal for the 
next 20 minutes only — 2 for the price 
of 1.41! I'm sure you'd agree, that's a 
pretty good deal!" 

The WinkMar SalesdeVice® was 
nearly irresistible. Frank licked his 
lips as he agreed to buy at least two — 
then he punched in orders for five! 

Chimes sounded A Package At The 

I went to get it for him, as he was 
so overwrought by his time in 
Shanghai, he couldn't have moved 
for some minutes. At the door I 
found three boxes from E&J 
Distribution in Paterson, NJ. After I 
piled them next to Frank, he opened 
them casually as he continued to keep 
a close watch on Latin Loss Leaders 
and the Safeway Channel. He with- 
drew several sweaters, a pair of jeans, 
two pairs of boots, and a cowboy hat. 

"Please," he said, turning to me at 
last, "will you see if any of this fits 
you? It's such a hassle to return 
things that don't fit and I can see that 
they messed up my order again. They 
always send 'em too small! But you 
might fit something. If not, would 
you be so kind as to put it in that 
closet in the hallway?" 

I left with the jeans. The rest I 
somehow crammed into that closet. 
It was completely filled with clothes, 
books, appliances, cameras, dishes, 
tons of stuffl All unopened, in origi- 
nal boxes! A core sample of that clos- 
et's contents would give you a capsule 
history of 20 years of tele-shopping, 
I'm sure... Maybe I can get a grant! 

— Chris Carlsson 

graphic by Richard Wool & Iguana Mente 



Wifingfor Dollars 

Boudoir & Bidet 

TWO oj the best jobs I ever had, in retrospect, 
occurred one after the other (with slight 
overlap) in the first six months of 1982: I was 
a hustler, then a housecleaner. I didn't 
consider them wonderful jobs at the time; most people 
would consider them pretty bad even today. But looking 
back after a decade and a half of "legitimate" 
employment I've come to realize that they were less 
demeaning than most jobs and better deals than most 
of us proles settle for much of the time. 

After I'd dropped out of school the previ- 
ous summer I coasted for six months on my 
unemployment checks — despite my recent 
student status I was entitled to them on the 
basis of my work-study job at the School of 
Public Health (see PW #28). It was a sign of 
the times and a tribute to my bohemian 
lifestyle that I was able to live on the 
$250/month (plus food stamps). But eventu- 
ally even that budget gravy train came to the 
end of the line and, for the first time in three 
years, I was searching the market for a sub- 
sistence wage. I had few occupational skills, 
incipient bad attitude and a distinctly non- 
professional appearance. A hacked resume 
and a meek demeanor failed to get me a 
position as a bank clerk or any other of the 
"situations" listed. Finally, just two weeks 
before rent was due, I responded to ads in 
the local gay rags recruiting "escorts and 
models," i.e. hustlers. 

The manager of the service lived a few 
blocks away. I passed my "performance 
interview" easily and learned the ground 
rules. The standard rate started at $60 an 
hour, of which I got to keep half. Longer 
periods yielded a small discount on the 
hourly rate, and the activity was presumed to 
embrace the current standard lexicon of gay 
sex: fucking and sucking. [See Sidebar] 

Interest in anything "kinky" gave you 
license to extort an extra "tip," but in prac- 
tice I rarely encountered "kink" and most 
customers were monumentally unimagina- 
tive. Richard, the pimp, would call me when 
he had a gig and give me the address; most 
often a downtown hotel. I was to deliver 
Richard's share to him immediately after- 
wards and await my next call. Sometimes I 
would get them daily for quite a while; other 
times I would go a couple of weeks without 

T ^ V^ ^ ^J ^ ^k ^ %^ V^ lg^^^-^J^ 




1 9 

Like most "escort" services, Richard's 
was a scam in many ways. He listed it 
under several different ads, all supposedly 
catering to a different clientele and offer- 
ing a different style of boy: preppies or 
butch types or pseudo-athletes. He also 
ran a number of supposedly individual 
ads, each purporting to be from an inde- 
pendent escort. All these calls ended up 
being routed to Richard's switchboard, 
and whatever the ad promised he always 
sent out the first boy to answer his phone. 
I went out — successfully — on calls as a 
six-foot tall stud (I'm actually about 5' 8") 
and as an eighteen year old (I was 24 at 
the time). The clients didn't seem to notice 
or mind: standards were low. 

The customers were a fairly pathetic 
crew, mostly out-of-town businessmen 
engaging in some covert kicks a safe dis- 
tance from home. I never felt threatened 
or abused by them. The sex ranged from 
bad to mediocre but I'd had worse 
encounters on my own time. The only 
John who ever ripped me off was, ironi- 
cally, also my only celebrity chent: the 
late, great, infamous Divine, the 300 
pound drag queen who starred in so 
many tacky John Waters films. I accepted 
less than my full fee on the promise of full 
payment the next day plus an invitation 
to a party, a transparent ruse I would 
have immediately rejected from any non- 
celebrity. In retrospect I should have 
insisted on collateral, like his watch. Most 
of the Johns were nice guys; none of them 

The "Good Old" Days 

This was long before there was any 
awareness of AIDS, let alone "safe sex" in 
Chicago. In fact, the virus was rampa^ng 
through the gay community hut we 
wouldn't figure this out for a couple of 
years. My customers were a very tame 
lot, as detailed below, and in several 
months of hustling none of them ever gave 
me anything, not even crabs. During the 
same period 1 got several minor infections 
from the dallying I did on my own time, 
and this was probably when 1 got AIDS as 
well. If anyone was at risk of picking up a 
"social disease" it was my Johns, not me. I 
might add that nowadays sex workers, as 
a group, are the best informed and most 
dedicated proponents of safe sex. I don't 
know of any prostitutes who will engage 
in unsafe sex, despite routine offers of 
double pay for it. 

was ever impolite (unless you 
consider trying to go overtime 
without paying rude) and 
overall their standard of 
behavior ranked favorably 
compared to the way 1 see 
most yuppies and "respectable 
businessmen" acting in other 
settings, like department stores 
and restaurants. 

The multiple referral system 
had a second advantage, aside from cast- 
ing a wide net. Whenever the vice squad 
wanted to bust hustlers they did it on the 
cheap by hiring a hotel room and then 
ordering boys from several services at 
once, planning to bust a bevy of us one 
after the other as we showed up. 
Naturally, they almost always called more 
than one of Richard's "services" and, since 
a legitimate customer looking for multiple 
partners would obviously get them from a 
single source, he could recognize their 
trap in advance. He didn't stand them 
up — that would show he'd figured them 
out, and reveal the links between his 
fronts — but rather sent them boys he was 
ready to retire from his employment to 
take the hit. He routinely promised to bail 
us out if busted but, as I later learned, 
never actually did so. 

At least I didn't get turned in. Police 
harassment in general wasn't much of a 
problem, except for the underage "chick- 
en" who worked the notorious Newbery 
Plaza near Chicago's old sleaze district 
(but even then rapidly gentrifying). The 
ritzy hotels, to my naive surprise, didn't 
seem to mind or even notice the occasion- 
al presence of obvious whores (male or 
female — though the women had to dress 
up more) strolling through their lobbies 
to the guest elevators. Street people rarely 
made it beyond the revolving doors. 

Male hustlers faced much less legal and 
general persecution in Chicago at that 
time than did our female counterparts. 
You could work the street without risk, if 
you had any savvy, and many indepen- 
dents were in operation as streetwalkers or 
phone-ordered escorts. Woman prosti- 
tutes, in contrast, had to have a pimp for 
"protection" from other pimps and the 
cops. If they tried to work the street or 
even a phone service independently the 
pimps would seek them out and assault 
them or turn them over to the police (who 
of course they paid off regularly). 

The laws that supposedly "protect" 

The behavior of the Johns 
ranked favorably compared 
to the way I see most yuppies 
and ''respectable businessmen" 
acting in department stores 
and restaurants. 

female whores from "exploitation" thus 
served to keep them vulnerable to 
crooked cops (the vast majority, of 
course) and pimps. Anyone who claims 
otherwise probably knows little about the 
realities of prostitution. 1 don't know why 
things are so much easier for male hus- 
tlers — generalized male privilege? A vol- 
ume of business too small to interest the 
big operators? — but they are. From what I 
can see, the situation continues pretty 
much the same today in most of the U.S. 

Richard was not a nice person. He was 
an ex-hustler himself and probably a 
Mafia vassal. He avoided dayhght like a 
vampire (perhaps distressed by his faded 
looks, much deteriorated of late, to judge 
from the photos taken of him in his youth 
and liberally scattered around his invari- 
ably darkened apartment) and openly 
delighted in exploiting his workers. Once, 
as I was dropping off his share after a gig, 
I saw him screen a job applicant on the 
building's intercom. "I remember him 
from when he worked for me three years 
ago" he confided as the aspirant was on 
his way up. "I'm not going to hire him 
this time — too old — but I'm going to 
'interview' him before I tell him that," he 

I don't know why he told me stuff like 
that, or the other details listed above 
(which few of my co-workers were aware 
of); it could be my persona inspires such 
confidences, or that he needed someone 
to boast to and was gratified by my inno- 
cent responses to his slimy revelations. A 
year later I was to have an ostensibly New 
Age ecofeminist lesbian boss, Eileen, who 
espoused great concern for her peons' 
spiritual and general well-being while dri- 
ving us mercilessly in the office. Her 
mind-fucking ploys turned out to be a 
much greater hassle than Richard's simple 
and open weirdness. Sure he was strange 
and crooked; he made no pretense of 
being anything else. 

Naturally no serious hustler would put 



3 2 

up with such a quirky boss for long. 
Career boys (as opposed to chippers like 
myself) would naturally split off and cre- 
ate their own "service," ideally taking a 
few of Richard's clients with them to give 
them a starting base. He protected himself 
against this as best he could by promising 
customers a free trick if they could fool a 
boy into giving them their home number, 
but even so suffered constant attrition. 
This was why most of his clientele were 
out-of-towners and one-timers rather 
then local repeat customers. 

My friends reacted variously and inter- 
estingly to my new job. My boyfriend Joe 
was a self-proclaimed "sex radical" (back 
when this label still suggested "political 
incorrectness), and Social Revolutionary; 
furthermore he had a "thing" for hustlers 
when he met them in bars. Despite this he 
was horrified when I became a hustler 
(but not to the point where he would 
offer me financial assistance or a place to 
live). In many ways it was difficult to dif- 
ferentiate his anguished Trotskyist "lump- 

enization of the proletariat" spiel from the 
Catholic moralism of his youth. 

Other acquaintances were titillated. Al 
and Stu, a pissy rich gay couple I knew 
through a close friend (who was sleeping 
with them) had "cut me cold" a few 
months earlier when they learned I was 
getting food stamps — in their book this 
defined me as a "welfare cheat" and they 
could of course no longer risk being 
polite to me in public. This attitude 
reversed when they learned of my new 
profession. Now they were fascinated by 
me, apologized profusely for their past 
behavior and tried their best (unsuccess- 
fully) to lure me into their bed (for free of 
course: they would never sink so low as 
to PAY a WHORE! Or at least they both 
thought so then; it wouldn't surprise me 
to learn that they've had recourse to 
working boys since then). Men I met in 
bars were invariably turned on when they 
learned how I supported myself. 

And I was a little impressed myself. In 
my two years since "coming out" I'd been 

painfully aware that I lacked most of the 
standard attributes of fagdom: I was indif- 
ferent to Judy Garland, hated the Opera, 
found promiscuity uncomfortable and 
could never get the hang of gay fashion 
(and still haven't, though I no longer 
worry about it). As a husder my gay cre- 
dentials were suddenly impeccable. And 
my doubts about my "market value" were 
swept away by my expHcit price tag and 
the warm reception I got in the bars when 
my peers learned my occupational status. 
It was a major boost to my self-esteem. 

Aside from that I found it an accept- 
able job. I knew that, according to the 
mainstream, it was illegal, immoral, dan- 
gerous, distasteful and oppressive; but in 
fact it required less routine abasement 
than being a bank clerk (or, as I was later 
to learn, junior management or a psy- 
chotherapist). The hours were short and 
flexible. I had virtually all my time to 
myself. It was cash under the table so I 
paid no pesky payroll taxes. Within the 
gay ghetto it was, as mentioned, actually a 


2 1 

prestigious career. Even so, after a couple 
of months my gigs began to taper off and 
it was clearly time to either set up as an 
independent or move on to something 
else. As it happened, another opportunity 
presented itself around this time. 

This was a job at Brooms Unlimited 
(until the previous year "Brooms Hilda" — 
they changed it after they got a "cease and 
desist" letter from the cartoon syndicate 
that carried the strip of that name). A 
friend who worked there advised me that 
they were always hiring. Brooms provided 
housecleaning to neurotic yuppies at 
about $10 per hour. About $4.50 went to 
us, the housecleaners; the rest went for 
"overhead." Please note that in this case 
the pimp's cut was roughly 55% instead 
of 50%; I assume that this difference was 
due to Brooms' being legal exploiters 
instead of clandestine ones. 

We checked in around 8:30 am 
to pick up our regulation green 
vinyl backpacks filled with clean- 
ing supplies (a squeeze bottle of 
soap, some green scrubby pads, a 
few rags and rubber gloves) and 
receive our assignments. Some 
"long-timers" (veterans of over six 
months employment) had regular 
gigs and knew their schedules in 
advance. The rest of us waited for whatev- 
er the market blew in. The minimum job 
and standard gig was for a three hour 
apartment cleaning. You were given the 
keys and address of a vacant apartment, 
whose owner was away at work and who 
would return to a miraculously clean 
home at the end of the day. 

If you could finish your assigned tasks 
early — and I don't recall ever working 
more than 40 minutes on the hour, 
except on those rare occasions clients 
were present — you could take off early or, 
if you preferred, hang out loafing in the 
customer's apartment reading their books, 
watching their TV, listening to their 
records (remember, this was long before 
CDs) or looking for things to steal. You 
turned in the customer's keys and your 
equipment bag at the end of the day and 
got paid at the end of the week. I don't 
think they properly reported our wages to 
Social Security. 

Some days I got two gigs; others just 
one, which was fine with me. Eventually I 
got shifted to the "heavy crew." This scam 
was a team of three cleaners (invariably 
male, if such were available: thus my pro- 

2 2 

motion over the heads of about a dozen 
women; male privilege again) traveling in 
the official Brooms van equipped with a 
few vacuum cleaners and a more impres- 
sive assortment of cleaning fluids. If you 
wanted to clean an apartment after some- 
one moved out or otherwise had what 
Brooms considered a "heavy job" they 
insisted you hire us: three men for at least 
three hours at a higher rate (so that I got 
an extra 75 cents per hour). 

The leader of the heavy crew was 
Mike, a music-obsessed bohemian who 
lived for his avant-garde tunes. The 
incredible variety of music which issued 
from his never-quiet boom-box was a rev- 
elation and an education to me. We 
would settle into an easy gig — our 
favorite was the routine post-moveout 
cleaning of expensive condos provided by 
Arthur J. Andersen to visiting accountants 

Our customers were g^ilty 
yuppies and nervous nellies 
who wished to avoid any personal 
contact with scum low enough to 
scrub their toilets. 

on assignment — light up a few joints, get 
some junk food from the Mickey D's in 
the lobby and listen to music and/or 
watch TV all day. Ten minutes of dusting 
and a load of laundry (done in the base- 
ment laundromat) usually sufficed to 
accomplish the requisite tasks. If we felt 
lazy we didn't do the laundry, but merely 
rotated the dirty sheets to the bottom of 
the stack of clean (?) linen in the closet. 
Did Arthur J. Andersen know what a raw 
deal they were getting? Did they care? Did 
our Brooms honchos suspect? 

I didn't know and 1 didn't care. Most 
of our clients were nebbishes of one sort 
or another. Any serious employer of 
housecleaners would seek out an inde- 
pendent worker and avoid paying 55% 
overhead to a pimp. Our customers were 
mostly guilty yuppies and nervous nellies 
who wished to avoid any personal contact 
with scum low enough to scrub their toi- 
lets, and they incorrectly assumed that 
our agency was bonded in some way that 
protected them against petty theft. They 
paid the premium in inflated prices, lousy 
services and incessant pilfering. All of us 
stole constantly but none of us was ever 

caught that I heard of. Some took food, 
others drugs; I went for books. 

We housecleaners were no model 
workers either, as illustrated above. Any 
serious housecleaner would stay with 
Brooms just long enough to develop some 
regular customers and then steal them 
away (easy to do; by cutting out Brooms 
you could cut prices by 30% and still net 
nearly twice as much as you did at the 
agency) — not unlike the more savvy hus- 
tlers working for Richard. Some com- 
bined a little discrete hustling with the 
housecleaning, providing the clients with 
sexual services in addition to (or instead 
oO maid work. Those of us who hung 
around were slackers, though the term 
wouldn't be coined for another decade. 

The bosses, Morry and Saul, did noth- 
ing to counteract the general slothful and 
criminal behavior of their employees. 
They were both constantly work- 
ing on dubious deals (in record 
distribution, in knock-off design- 
er jeans, you name it) and were 
content to let Brooms run along at 
its natural pace. I only know of 
one occasion when they actually 
fired someone. The heavy crew 
had been sent to an affluent 
North Shore community to clean 
a local mansion. The client said she was 
going to be gone all day, so they proceed- 
ed to raid the extremely well-stocked 
liquor cabinet and get absolutely 
smashed, figuring they would have time 
to both sober up and do some work 
before she returned. 

A fight developed when the new guy, 
John (my replacement), told Frank the 
Nazi that he was a nice guy even if he was 
a Nazi. Frank took offense at this and 
threw the (client's) vacuum cleaner at 
him. It missed, smashing into the wall 
beside the door just as the client flung it 
open, having treacherously returned mid- 
day to spy on the crew. She was livid, but 
got no refund. The crew wasn't even 
docked wages, and Frank could have 
stayed on the job if he'd only kept his 
cool when called on the carpet. Instead he 
began shrieking that Morry and Saul were 
"stinking jews" and they had to fire him 
out of general principle. 

Thus bosses, customers and workers 
all shared a cynical and apathetic attitude 
about the business — just like hustling. 

It was supposed to be a humiUating 
job, and everyone I encountered looked 


down on it. This was something that no 
one who could avoid it would do, even in 
their own home, let alone a stranger's. It 
didn't even have the paradoxical prestige 
of hustling. Al and Stu, the priss queens, 
lost all interest in me again (though this 
time they did consider hiring my ser- 
vices). Only Joe was relieved at my return 
to proletarian purity. 

Certainly the pay was low; but the 
work was easy and often solitary. Oddly, 
doing housekeeping professionally was 
much less objectionable than doing it for 
oneself. I suppose that's because cleaning 
your own place comes out of your "free" 
time, while this was slow-paced squan- 
dering of someone else's time. Despite the 
lack of status I actually didn't have to take 
much shit from anyone. Virtually all other 
jobs I had before or since required signifi- 
cantly more routine kowtowing and ass- 
kissing. We didn't care, our bosses didn't 
care, our clients didn't know any better 
and the net result was a very low-pressure 
situation. In this regard it was like hus- 
tling; there the dominance games were 
mostly a sort of (debased) courtly ritual. 

The similarities between the two jobs 
were interesting. Both were essentially 
scams run by pimps, perpetrated upon 
ignorant clients and employing impaired 
workers (in the sense that we couldn't fig- 
ure out more profitable scams on our 
owTi). Both, in a way, provided "wifing," 
supplying the basic but highly personal 
services which most heterosexual men 
would get freebie from their spouses. 
Viewed in that light it was actually proba- 
bly a better deal, financially, than mar- 
riage. Neither job paid well or provided 
any benefits, and neither really required 
any skills beyond "getting by" with pro- 
viding as little as possible in return for 
our wages. 

Are such jobs demeaning, oppressive 
and exploitive like the mainstreamers say? 
Perhaps; but compared to what? 
Operating the deep-fryer at McDonalds? 
Kissing butt in an office? Selling over- 
priced commodities to foolish consumers? 
Being "all that you can be" in the Marines? 
I found them better than most employ- 
ment options offered before or since. This 
may say more about the nature of work in 
our society than it does about either of 
those two jobs (and I suppose it speaks 
volumes about me), but I ask you: Who 
are the whores, really? 

— Kwazee Wahhitt 

(Note: in spell-checking this program I 
discovered my computer program's hitherto 
unsuspected puritanical streak. It didn't rec- 
ognize the word "whore" [it suggested that I 
really wanted "whereas" or "whorls" instead], 
nor did it understand the word "pimp" [which 
it wanted to replace with "pip"]- It couldn't 
even handle as common a word as "shit"; 
instead it wanted to substitute "Shiite." How 
can a program this up to date on contempo- 
rary international politics be this dumb about 

a few dirty words? It didn't recognize "fuck" 
[preferring "facing," "bucking," or — oy! — 
cuckooing"]. Other interesting lapses includ- 
ed: not recognizing "housecleaner" [although 
it did counter-offer "housecleaned," suggest- 
ing they value the task but not its doer]; ques- 
tioning "moralism" [it wanted to use 
"moralist"]; and, finally, rejecting 
"exploitive" and proposing "expletive" in its 
stead. However, it had no trouble with 


3 2 

2 3 

A Drink of Water 


Day did not break upon the 
vast emptiness of the 
Nevada desert. Instead the 
sky slowly thinned, exposing the 
spaces between the distant ranges. 
Black was diluted to blue as the 
stars disappeared and the moun- 
tains emerged from night. A band 
of pale light leaked into the world. 

The man who was driving on a long 
straight highway toward the light barely 
noticed the change as it happened. When 
he realized the darkness he had been dri- 
ving through had expanded in all direc- 
tions, he wondered where he had been. 
The capsule of the cab of his truck at 
night with the dash lights glowing dimly 
was like the computer cubicle where he 
spent his days. The indicator lights and 
numbers were familiar landmarks to 
him. When the morning light revealed 
the distances between the blue 
black ranges and flattened q. 
out the pale valley 
between, he began 
to feel a little lost. 

It is a sign of 
the times, he 
thought, that a 
should find 
himself more 
comfortable nego- 
tiating the terrain of a 
computer model. But 




that was where his work took him. And 
there he had hit pay dirt. 

If a prospector knew what he was 
doing, he did not have to go out and 
bang on rocks anymore. The geographic 
information system, a vast computer 
database containing facts about every 
square mile of the earth, was the world 
he roamed in search of his fortune. And 
there he found it, locked away in the 
confusing, overwhelming array of facts. 

He was just like a prospector of old, he 
thought, finding gold where many oth- 
ers had passed, oblivious to the signifi- 
cance of a subtle showing. How many 
great ore bodies had been discovered 
right under the eyes of people who did 
not know what they were looking at? He 
knew the legends. 

His discovery would be a real bonanza, 
all right, although it was not a metal that 
shone through the opaque data on his 
computer screen at work It was some- 
thing even more precious in this 
dry country: water. 

When the announce- 
ment was made on 
Monday, it would 
mean an end to 
the drought that 
had plagued 
Nevada. He 
would not only be 
rich and famous, 
his find would make 
a lasting contribution. 
Like the Comstock lode 

2 4 


that originally built the state, his water 
would carry the community into a new 

He realized he had not even seen the 
sun rise when he passed through Devil's 
Gate. Diamond Valley lay spread out 
before him, stretching to the north 
beyond the apparent edge of the earth. 
That was where his fortune lay. 

He stopped to fill up his gas tank in the 
town of Eureka, a jumble of brick build- 
ings jammed into a narrow canyon at the 
high end of the valley. It is nearly a ghost 
tov\m, he thought, but they will have rea- 
son to cry Eureka once again. The man 
thought about calling his fiancee. She had 
said to call back when he had the time for 
her. Well he would wait until after the 
announcement. Then he would have 
something to tell her. 

"Morning," he said to the old man 
behind the counter as he clunked down a 
six pack of beer. The gray eyes barely lift- 
ed and seemed not to see him. "How's 
the road up the east side of the valley 
these days?" he asked. 

"Who knows?" the old man shrugged, 
"nobody goes there anymore." He had 
seen so many young men come and go in 
their little four-wheel drive imported 
trucks, dressed in flannel button downs, 
clean blue jeans, and new hiking boots, 
bringing bright promises of better 
futures. You really couldn't tell them 
anything, the old man thought. 

The young man walked out. This was 
the only civilized life, if you could call it 
that, for many miles in any direction. 

Just below the town, still at the high 
end of Diamond Valley, there was a patch 
of emerald circles like oversize golf 
greens. Center pivot sprinklers straddled 
the alfalfa farms like giant praying man- 
tises striding across the landscape. After 
that there was nothing until he passed 
Von Erickson's tumbled down ranch 
hard by the alkali flat at the lower end of 
the valley. 

He didn't even slow down. He popped 
open a beer and chuckled as the rooster 
tail from his four-by-four billowed over 
the house. The crazy old man, he would 
go to his grave shaking his fist at the 
"shysters who were stealing his water," 
the young man thought. 

We won't hold their backwardness 
against them, he allowed. They could 
have a little water for their farms and 

towns too. They didn't know any better. 
They had only scratched the surface of 
this hard unforgiving country. Now we 
can look inside the earth through our 
computers, he thought. None of the 
mysteries will remain unknown for long. 

The road climbed through a low notch 
at the north end of the valley between 
where the mountains flanking the valley 
came together. He turned west on a little 
traveled trail that skirted the alkali flat 
now shimmering from spring flood. No 
one had thought to look here before. All 
the water seemed to come from the other 
side, where the springs on Von 
Erickson's place used to gush year round, 
before the irrigators to the south began 
drawing dowm the water table, until the 
springs ceased flowing. 

But a thousand feet down they had 
found what the computer told them 

would be there: water coursing through 
fissures in the earth, coming as if to 
replenish an eternal source. It was a bal- 
ancing, he thought. 

The road to the company's well was 
covered with water in some places. But 
he muscled the truck through the muddy 

The remote monitoring equipment at 
the well had failed. That was why he was 
coming out to check the well one more 
time and take some pictures for the press 
conference Monday. Anyway, it was a 
nice Saturday drive, if a little long. But 
that's Nevada, he thought, where every- 
thing is always so much more distant 
than it seems at first. 

When he got to the well, he saw why 
the computer had lost touch with this 
source a week ago. The well was flowing 
onto the flat. The cap was broken ofl^and 


3 2 

2 5 

the monitor lay smashed beside it. 

Oh well, he thought, once they proved 
up on their claims they wouldn't have to 
worry about vandals anymore. They 
could put an armed guard here if they 
had to. Besides, this will make even better 
pictures, he thought as he got out his 
camera, with the water flowing freely 
from the source onto the desert. 

The sun was high and hot by the time 
he finished taking pictures and estimating 
the flow. It was even better than he had 
thought. But why so high? This had not 
been predicted. Nevertheless, he was con- 
fident that when he entered the numbers 
in the computer he would get an answer. 

He sat in the shade of his truck, ate the 
sandwich he had brought, and drank a 

beer. He watched the water flow out on 
the desert and smiled to himself and the 
world. He dreamed of the cities and wet- 
lands that would spring from his handi- 
work. Who said the bonanza days were 
over? He could already taste the glory. 

He awoke with a chill. The shadow 
from the mountain to his back was 
extending across the valley. He had better 
be getting back unless he wanted to spend 
the night with his water. It would have 
been nice, he thought. But the tempera- 
ture was dropping rapidly and he hadn't 
come prepared to camp. 

He threw his tools in the back of his 
truck with a sudden sense of urgency. He 
wasn't sure where it came from. Just a 
moment before he had been dreaming 



Ar Fi«.^T IT WAS 
PoiMG IT. 

\wiTH me ct?ou*o. 
r ^TEieQ MY 
F>e«ir Toe- 

pleasantly of a watery garden. Then the 
world turned flat and cold as dusk came 
to steal the sun. 

He spun the truck around and began to 
beat a retreat. But the water had risen 
around the spring his well had created 
and the truck mired in the mud a short 
distance away. He cursed and jumped out 
to lock the wheels. When he got back in 
he was muddy and wet. The wheels still 
spun, spraying mud, digging deeper. He 
slammed the steering wheel with the flat 
of his hand. 

Now he would have to dig himself out. 
He trudged up the nearby slope, yanked 
sagebrush from the ground, and draped 
it back to the truck. At least he had come 
prepared for this possibility, he told him- 
self. He took a shovel from the back of 
the truck and dug out paths in front of the 
wheels. He lined them with the pungent 
branches. After several trips up the hill- 
side to gather more brush, he was cold 
and sore. He had forgotten to put a coat 
on. Night had fallen. He climbed back in 
the cab, started the engine, and shud- 
dered. This had better work, he thought. 

He held his breath as he let out the 
clutch. The wheels caught and he eased 
out of the mud hole. Steady as you go, he 
told himself, letting out a deep rush of air 
filled with his anxiety. 

His dim headlights barely illuminated 
the trail ahead. He should have wiped the 
mud and dust away, he realized, but there 
was no sense in stopping now. He 
pressed on through a couple of the water 
and mud holes he had crossed on his way 
in. He held his breath each time. When 
the road branched, he had to choose and 
hope he was right. The night was pitch 
and offered no landmarks. Where were 
the moon and stars? 

When the road veered suddenly to the 
right, that would be south, he thought, 
and he knew he was home free. But 
something was wrong. The water on the 
road was getting deeper and deeper. He 
continued, thinking he would soon reach 
the other side, until it was too late, and he 
was stuck again. 

He opened the door and stepped out 
into two feet of standing water. The 
moon was rising over the mountains to 
the east. He saw now that he was stuck 
way out on the playa. There was no way 
he could dig himself out of this in the 
dark. He would have to spend the night 

2 6 


3 2 

photo by D.S. Black 

after all. He huddled to himself, turned 
the radio on, popped open a beer, and 
caught a distant baseball game bouncing 
off the ionosphere. He awoke with a start 
when he heard his own name during a 
news break about the announcement 
expected Monday. 

When dawn broke he saw the water had 
risen. Or perhaps his truck had slowly 
sunk. The ripples from a steady wind 
lapped at the lower edge of the cab floor 
when he opened the door. He tried to 
start the truck but the battery was dead. 
He had fallen asleep exhausted in the sixth 
inning. He wondered what the score was. 

He wouldn't be able to get out of here 
anyway, he thought. He would have to 
walk to help. He was stiff, sore and 
thirsty. He was surrounded by water but 
it was too salty to drink. He remembered 
the beer and opened one. It was cool and 
tasted good going down. It would fill him 
a little too. 

During the night, it hadn't seemed so 
far but he found himself a couple miles 
into the middle of the playa. The closest 
shore was the wrong way to go but it 
would put him out of the water sooner. 
He grabbed the remaining beers by the 
plastic ring and set off through the knee- 
high water. 

He could die in his own water, he 
thought with laughter, as the mud sucked 
at his feet. By the time he reached dry 
land he was exhausted again and had to 
sit down and drink another beer. It was 
nearly twenty miles to the Erickson 
ranch, he calculated. 

As the naked sun rose in the pale sky, 
he stumbled down the dusty road. He 
could see the cottonwood trees of the 
ranch in the distance but they never 
seemed to get any closer. When the sun 
was high overhead, he sought refuge in 
the spare shade of a big sagebrush. He 
scared up a jackrabbit that went bound- 
ing off for another shelter. He squirmed 
in the dirt under the sage's fragrant 
branches and finished the last beer. He 
was feeling light headed but it was all he 
had for sustenance. 

Aside from the rabbit and the dull 
brush, the only living things he had seen 
all day were the vultures riding thermal 
drafts high above. He began to realize he 
might really be in trouble. He shook off 
the feeling which had startled him alert. 
He had better move while he still could. 

he thought. He was only halfway to the 

He let his mind go blank as the alkali 
playa glared at him and light bounced off 
every surface to assault his eyes. At times 
he closed his eyes and let his heavy legs 
carry him down the road. At least the sun 
would be lowering now, he thought. 

A few times he stumbled ready to give 
up. But each time he startled himself to 
new effort. 

By the time he reached the ranch, the 
sun seemed to rest on the mountain 
range to the west for a moment before it 
fell, plunging the valley in shadow. As he 
walked up to the ranch house door, he 
gathered strength. He had made it, he 
felt, although the ranch had even more of 
an abandoned air than the surrounding 
dry range and alkali valley. The yard was 
a graveyard for abandoned farm equip- 
ment. The cottonwoods and willows 
seemed britde and unwilling to bud. 

He pounded on the door which 
swung open under his blows. "Halloo?" 
he called out, "Anybody home?" He was 
surprised at how thick his tongue sound- 
ed. When no answer came back, he tried 
again, then stepped inside. 

Through a bedroom door left ajar he 
saw rubber boots crossed casually on a 
bed. "Mr. Erickson?" he inquired tenta- 
tively. He crossed the room and pushed 
the door open. 

Von Erickson sat with his back 
propped against the headboard. He was 
dressed as if he had just come back from 
mucking ditches with worn leather work 

gloves by his side, a felt cowboy hat 
stained with sweat on his head, a faded 
denim shirt and dirty jeans stuffed in 
black rubber boots. But there was no sky 
mirrored in blue black ponds where chil- 
dren swam framed by brilliant greens of 
pasture and trees. On the bedside table 
sat a brackish glass of water. The 
rancher's eyes stared blankly out a v^n- 
dow over fields where the wind blew 
dust through rangy weeds in the fading 
light. He was dead. 

"Mr. Erickson," the young man 
croaked at the dead man. "Can you spare 
some water?" 

He heard the old man let out a rueful 
cackle. "My water went that-a-way," he 
said, gesturing south up the valley. "As 
soon as those sprinklers came, my springs 
dried up. Now you shysters want even 
more. This used to be a beautiful, peace- 
ful place," he said, his head nodding 
toward the photo album, "with all that 
water spread around, and birds and grass. 
I had big plans for this place. Now every- 
thing is gone except for me. Get outta 

The young man's anger flashed. "Is 
that all you can talk about is the past? 
There's plenty of water here for every- 
body," he raged. "Why do you have to 
stand in the way of progress?" 

It was no use. They had had this argu- 
ment before. The dead man said nothing. 
The young man turned away from him 
and lurched into the kitchen. He pawed 
at the faucet. But it only spit air into a 
sink plugged with sand. 


3 2 

He heard a dog whining and followed 
the sound outside to the back of the 
house. He stumbled down a bank to 
where a mangy sheep dog lay by a circle 
of rocks where water once bubbled from 
the earth and flowed into irrigation ditch- 
es and out across the fields. The dog 
jerked to its feet and snarled at the 
approaching figure. 

"You have to share your water," the 
man pleaded in desperation. The dog 
started at him with snapping jaws. The 
man groped for a rock and nearly fell. 
But he got off a throw that clattered 
toward the dog, sending it skittering off a 
few yards into the brush. 

As he fell on his knees at the spring 
source, the dog watched and whined. The 

water was just within reach, standing in 
the hole stagnant and slimy on the surface. 
He plunged his hand down and brought it 
to his lips. The stench made him gag but 
he forced himself to drink, at least to wet 
his parched lips, he told himself, to take 
away the taste of death. When he could 
take no more, he pulled himself to his 
feet. He realized he had to continue. 

Night had fallen. Stars appeared in the 
blue black flashes on a computer screen. 
He thought he saw the lights twitch and 
turn in their wheeling across the sky. 
Had he dozed and woken again? He was 
losing track of time. 

His heavy legs carried him to the road. 
He faced south. The moon came over 
the mountains to the east like a cup ready 

to be filled. He knew it was cold. But he 
felt the moon's warmth. 

He heard voices ahead. He pushed 
himself toward the sound. 

"We will never want for water again," 
he heard a voice intoning. "This discov- 
ery will change the nature of this dry land 
forever." He dimly realized it was his 
ovvTi voice. He pulled himself erect as he 
felt the light and heat of camera lights on 
his face. He tasted a trickle of cool water 
in his throat as he lifted a clear glass and 
announced, "Ladies and gentlemen, we 
have found the source of eternal life in 
the desert." 

—Jon Christensen 


I asm 

Come on over and just WALLOW 

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right from your own carl Adjacent 

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Driveway Lake. Thofs right! 




and absolutely NO LIMITS on the 

amount of impact you core to dole 

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federally designated, exploitable 

wilderness sanctuary. Ell|Oy! 

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convicted felon and herbivorist, 

meticulously planned and exploited 

Big Squirrel Lick and Shaman Bob 

National Recreation Area with white 

Americans in mind. ../'usf like you! 

So enjoy it or git! 

2 8 


3 2 

<y ToC 



Everything we know about enter- 
tainment and the forms it takes as 
"product" is up for grabs. The cat- 
egories that seem so "natural" to us like 
TV, radio, albums, books, 
magazines, movies, 
videos, are rapidly con- 
verging into one large dig- 
ital data stream. Those 
earlier forms won't com- 
pletely disappear, but all 
will be altered by their 
new interchangeability as 
data, and new combina- 
tions will become com- 
mon. Central to this 
process are converging changes in form 
and delivery, from the much-touted 
arrival of "interactive" media to the fren- 
zy of corporate and legal deal-making 
regarding the delivery of digital signals 
to your home or business via phone 
and/or cable. 

Interactivity is the means to 

personalize and enhance 

your participation in 

image consumption. By 

providing limited choices, 
interactivity mimics the 
false control offered over 

work by self-management 

and workers' participation 

Beneath the media world lies our percep- 
tual framework, and digital media may change how 
we know what we know. Our sense of life and soci- 
ety changed at earlier times of upheaval in "com- 
munications technology," especially in the 

transition from oral to literate 
cultures. Literacy contributed to 
the downfall of many a dictator 
and monarch, but it also 
brought with it certain assump- 
tions that strongly influence our 
imaginations. Marshall 
McLuhan argued that the subtle 
effects of the medium of know- 
ing influences what we can 
know. Knowledge, when con- 
structed from "straight rows of 
exactly repeatable, individually 
meaningless units of type, is an 
amazingly close analogue of, and 
perhaps the model for, the specialized industrial 
society in which an entire economy is assembled 
out of small bits of individually owned private 
property — including intellectual property."^ 

Any metaphor can be taken too literally, but 
clearly something as invisibly "natural" as the 
alphabet imparts deep assumptions about how 
the world around us is structured, or more accu- 


3 2 

2 9 

rately, how we humans structure that 
world. Literacy provided the "operating 
system" and the logic for the advanced 
developments in communications tech- 
nology by establishing the basis for a 
technologized culture and by shaping our 
conception of knowledge. 

The subversive possibilities of liter- 
acy per se have long ago exhausted them- 
selves. Seeing the world through literate 
eyes, as does a large part of the world's 
population, has not in itself led to a richly 
engaged and informed public, even 
though books and information are rela- 
tively easy to acquire. The critical con- 
sciousness of an active literate (still pretty 
rare, after all) has been outflanked by the 
aggressive shaping of "reality" by mass 
media. Of course there could be no TV 
without literacy, but the represented 
world of television, reinforced by radio 
and newspapers, establishes and shapes 
reality in ways that the printed word only 
aspired to, but could never achieve alone. 
After centuries of gradually expanding lit- 
eracy and nearly a hundred years of pub- 
lic schooling, our minds have been 
shaped to believe what we see. As pho- 
tography, film and TV became common- 
place, our "natural" instinct to believe 
what we see created a society perfectly 
suited to "blind" allegiance to a carefully 
manufactured "reality" of images. The 
roots of this manipulability are clearly 
visible in the successes of yellow (print) 
journalism around the turn of the centu- 
ry before the arrival of the "more real" 
radio or TV. 

If the demise of the Soviet empire 













just like a virus 

heralds the end of the 20th century, it 
also marks the victory of the system of 
order advanced by the U.S. throughout 
the world, a system called the "integrated 
spectacle" by the French Situationist 
vmter Guy Debord:^ 

The society whose modernization has 
reached the stage of the integrated spectacle is 
characterized by the combined effect of five princi- 
pal features: incessant technological renewal, inte- 
gration of state and economy, generalized secrecy, 
unanswerable lies, and eternal present.... Once 
one controls the mechanism which operates the 
only form of social verification to be fully and 
universally recognized, one can say what one 
likes. The spectacle proves its arguments simply 
by going round in circles: by coming back to the 
start, by repetition, by constant reaffirmation in 
the only space left where artything can be publicly 
affirmed, and believed, precisely because that is 
the only thing to which everyone is witness. 
Spectacular power can similarly deny whatever it 
likes, once, or three times over, and change the 
subject, knowing full well there is no danger of 
any riposte, in its own space or any other. 

The rule of the Spectacle, while 
omnipresent and amazingly effective, still 
has its cracks and fissures. Clearly, the 
simple truth no longer holds the same 
weight as it once did, and it never seems 
"simple." Reliance on earnest appeals to 
the truth will continue to fall on deaf 
ears, if such appeals are even articulated 
publicly at all. The "new media uni- 
verse," or media-verse, is under construc- 
tion, and some people hope for openings 
in the armor that wall allow a more egali- 
tarian society to begin emerging from the 
technological cornucopia. 

Predatory Pruning in the 
Corporate Garden 

Corporate giants have recently been 
observed tying the knot in frenzied cross- 
industry deals, getting married to stake a 
claim in the much-anticipated media- 
verse. The old TV networks, Microsoft, 
IBM and Apple, TCI and Time Warner, 
the New York Times and USA Today, Bell 
Atlantic and the other baby Bells, AT&T, 
QVC and the Home Shopping Network, 
not to mention all the smaller local inter- 
ests, have all joined the battle. Vast for- 
tunes will be wasted and a few will survive 
and grow. And when the dust clears there 
should be, according to all the analysts, a 
media industry straddling the globe com- 
parable to the mid-20th century auto and 
oil giants.-^ 

As media giants compete across the 

planet to control our perceptions of reali- 
ty, the univocal, self-referential spectacu- 
lar society will have to change its spots. 
While we watch and throw an occasional 
stone, the system will try to exploit 
regional differences even while promot- 
ing a less Euro- or Yankee-centric "objec- 
tivity." CNN against ABC against BBC 
against TV GLOBO against NHK, etc. 
will supposedly demonstrate the "free- 
dom of the airwaves." Competition will 
be emphasized to obscure the essential 
sameness and increasingly homogenized 
package of modem life, a package which 
is paradoxically very different from the 
lives of most people. 

We can expect the approaching 
international network television system to 
promote a new global citizenship. How 
shall we counter this bogus citizenship, 
this pathetic acquiescence to a corporate 
agenda? What would an anti-capitalist, 
positive and humane version of such "citi- 
zenship" consist of in the post-modern 
world? Can "global citizen," or "interna- 
tional proletarian," or any new global 
identity arise to undermine the untram- 
meled power of multinational capital? 
Multinational corporations will spend bil- 
lions to define a "desirable" way of life, 
ideologically reinforcing "globalism" the 
same way national capital has historically 
reinforced nationalism. Global broadcast- 
ing will surely intensify the already 
advanced process of creeping monocul- 
ture, leading to the final airport-ization 
and enclave-ization of reality for the 
haves, while the have-nots remain unseen 
and unnoticed, except as panhandlers and 
occasional rioters. 

They'll try to get us to pay for this 
new media-verse, too. Unless we can revo- 
lutionize how we use these technologies — 
along with the society we create 
together — they'll invent yet another pay- 
ment scheme: by the minute, by the prod- 
uct, by the kilobyte, subscriptions and 
access fees, TV-shopping taxes, and so on. 
We can't play unless we pay, as usual, 
unless the easy duplicability of digital 
information finally destroys all attempts at 
ownership and payment schemes. 

It is possible that the private origin 
and rightful ownership of ideas will erode 
as we freely access bits of writings 
through new electronic libraries. 
Someday we'll know that the global reser- 
voir of scientific and technical knowledge 
belongs to everyone equally, since it is a 
product of the complex web of human 



3 2 

















history. Doug Brent argues that: 

The metaphorical meaning of print 
technology is isolation, not communality. In 
particular, the ability to claim one's particular 
share of the intertextual web, and stamp it with 
one's own name — an ability made possible by 
the same printing press that made widespread 
cumulation of knowledge possible as well — sug- 
gests that knowledge is individually owned. I 
believe that computer mediated communication 
provides a totally different metaphorical mes- 
sage... that takes theories of collaborative knowl- 
edge and. ..stamps them indelibly in the 
consciousness of the entire society.... With elec- 
tronic communication the notion of the static 
and individually owned text dissolves back into 
the communally performed fluidity of the oral 
culture.... Document assembly becomes analogous 
to the oral poet boilerplating stock phrases and 
epithets into familiar plots.. .it becomes obvious 
that originality lies not so much in the individ- 

ual creation of elements as in the performance 
of the whole composition.^ [emphasis added] 

Orality & Literacy 

Oral, non-literate cultures are "verhomotor" cul- 
tures in which, by contrast with high-technology 
cultures, courses of action and attitudes toward 
issues depend significantly more on effective use 
of words, and thus on human interaction, and 
significantly less on non-verbal, often largely 
visual input from the "objective" world of 
things.... Primary orality fosters personality 
structures that in certain ways are more commu- 
nal and externalized, and less introspective than 
those common among literates. 
— Walter J. Ong, Orality and Literacy, 
(Routledge: 1982) 

Imagine life without books, maga- 
zines, packaging, signs, TV, radio, boom- 
boxes, et al. Kind of hard, isn't it? What 
was "in" the pre-literate mind? What did 
it make of time and space? 

Before writing and before alpha- 
bets, human society depended entirely on 
speech and song to establish and maintain 
knowledge, often in the form of lengthy, 
elaborate sagas. Ong argues that "without 
print, knowledge must be stored not as a 
set of abstract ideas or isolated bits of 
information, but as a set of concepts 
embedded deeply in the language and 
culture of the people." Oral cultures 
strive to conserve knowledge, largely 
through the repetition of elaborate alle- 
gorical tales with stock phrases and com- 
munally recognized characters, roles and 
concepts (Homer's Iliad and Odyssey are 
examples). With no place to "look it up," 
humans depended on wise individuals, 
often the elders who had developed and 
polished their storytelling skills, to main- 
tain and transmit what was known. 

Intellectual experimentation was 


3 2 

3 1 

distrusted, since the important goal was 
to preserve what was known rather than 
to challenge and undermine it with new 
ideas. The oral society maintained a 
heightened awareness and focus on what 
we call the "present." Changes in life 
were reflected in changing episodes in 
well-known stories. What was remem- 
bered gradually and seamlessly changed 
to meet new situations. 

Accompanying the move from an 
oral to a literate human culture, sound is 
demoted as the primary medium for 
experiencing knowledge. Sound, whether 
voice or ambient noise or music, sur- 
rounds you in a way visual input doesn't. 
Learning, understanding and wisdom 
were by definition socially developed and 
shared — thoughts and wisdom only exist- 
ed as sound, disappearing as soon as 
uttered unless repeated. 

The "natural" separation between 
knowledge and knower which permeates 
our literate, technologized culture, could- 
n't have occurred to an intelligent, "well- 
educated" mind in a pre-literate society. 
Oral people didn't have the sense of time 
we accept today. There were seasons and 
weather and most cultures had holidays 
during the various times of year, but 
there weren't dates, hours, clocks, and so 
on.-^ Literacy made it possible to record 
thoughts, examine, debate and revise 
them, which soon gave greater power to 
the masters of the newly technologized 
word. As thinking about something v^it- 
ten becomes more common, fragmenta- 
tion of consciousness, specialization and 
complex analysis become possible in ways 





not possible in oral societies. Among the 
earliest uses of writing was the control of 
legal codes and accounting for business. 
As market relations inexorably spread 
through imperial conquest and subjuga- 
tion, literacy went along, too. Literacy, 
based on visual linearity, after centuries has 
narrowed what we value as knowledge, 
and hence what we experience. Even 
though we have more and deeper knowl- 
edge about the world than pre-literate, oral 
cultures, our civilization is astonishingly 
barbaric. The everyday communality and 
ability to live much more cooperatively, 
present in many oral societies, would be a 
welcome antidote to the isolation and 
anomie of modem daily life. 

Interactivity to the Rescue? 

The new hype about interactivity 
suggests certain appetites or consumer 
demands are being felt. Do people want 
interactive entertainment because the 
interaction they share with friends, family 
and co-workers is insufficient? Now, all- 
new interactive entertainment comes 
along to assuage the loneliness of modern 
life, but actually ends up reinforcing it! 
Capitalist society brutalizes us with the 
fears and doubts of "economic necessity." 
We react naturally, by becoming more 
machine-like. Interactivity promises to 
give us what we've lost as we adapted to 
society. We may be bored and boring, but 
interactive entertainment promises to let 
us control beautiful people doing beauti- 
ful things, with no backtalk or guff. 

I admit I was intrigued at first. But 
it was hard to imagine a finely-tuned, 
labor-intensive creative product with gap- 
ing holes left for a naive user to come in 
and add whatever he or she wanted. Sure 
enough, existing interactive CD-ROM 
products are either encyclopedic databas- 
es with photos, text and occasional video- 
clips, or they are elaborate games with 
numerous hidden clues and buttons that 
you must overcome to get to the next level 
or scene. Todd Rundgren is among a 
smattering of musicians who are publish- 
ing music CDs with uses from straight- 
ahead listening to mix-and-match your 
own tune with provided elements. 

Interactive programming will have 
to be able to deliver specific consumer 
market segments to advertisers, of course. 
Interactivity and artificial environments 
("virtual reality") will attract a share of 
the entertainment consumer dollar. How 
much depends on what the experience 

can really deliver. If it ends up being a 
wax-museum trip through Polygon Hell, 
it will never catch on. But if you can 
"attend" various historic moments, 
places, events, and "be there" in true 360 
degrees live animation, that could be 
pretty addictive.* 

Some boosters argue that interac- 
tive programs can stimulate a renaissance 
in education, overcoming the archaic 
forms of learning still relied on in most 
schools. A great deal of public school is 
really awful, so it's easy to imagine a new 
series of techno-fixes being well-received 
by students and faculty. But the issues of 
education go a lot deeper (see Processed 
World 3\). 

Will the rise of "interactive" TV 
mean more toggling, more pulp fiction, 
more brain-dead hours of "entertain- 
ment"? Are there really a bunch of people 
out there who want to do a lot more than 
just switch channels until they find 
something they can "veg out" in front of? 
Interactive entertainment is a glorified 
system of multiple choice and thus a hol- 
low promise. Entertainment is bad 
enough already, but to structure it so you 
have to work to enjoy it — forget it! 

True interactivity is what can hap- 
pen between human beings, genuine 
subjects, individuals with the unique 
quality of being able to find a near-infi- 
nite range of responses to any situation, as 
well as the ability to imagine completely 
new possibilities not yet anticipated. Any 
interactive program or game today is a 
closed loop in which all the possibilities 
have been thought of and planned for; 
your "job" is to try to gain access to them. 
With a "friendly" interface, your work 
seems like play, and the time computing 
seems really fun and just a big game after 
all. But the interaction, or interactivity, is 
the means to personalize and enhance 
your participation in prefabricated image 
consumption. By providing limited 
choices, interactivity mimics the false 
control offered over work by self-man- 
agement and workers' participation 
schemes, wherein workers decide how to 
accomplish the business' mission, but, 
crucially, not what the mission is. 

The free communication spaces that 
we have now (e.g. Internet, public access 
TV, etc.) are already overwhelmingly 
uninteresting. Human community 
("interactivity") is already extremely weak. 
The whole notion of public opinion has 
turned into an easily manipulated series of 

3 2 


3 2 

statistical non sequiturs. "Unanswerable 
lies have succeeded in eliminating public 
opinion, which first lost the ability to 
make itself heard and then very quickly 
dissolved altogether." (Debord) 

The wide expansion of channels and 
bandwidths along with easy, cheap, two- 
way and conferencing capabilities could 
promote horizontal communication in 
ways that undercut the univocal voice of 
the dominant society. But the Spectacle 
could also continue to absorb every social 
expression and movement into its under- 
lying logic of buying and selling. The 
advent of TV shopping and online services 
expands the reach of market relations a 
notch or two further. Perhaps the loss of 
public space has driven the dreamers into 
cyberspace, with the only thriving "public" 
communities existing on bulletin boards, 
hence the enthusiasm for new media in 
projects of social liberation. But what 
about the large majority of the population 
that has simply been closed out of any 
contact with this world? 

Reconnecting the Circuits 

In this world which is officially so respectful of 
economic necessities, no one ever knows the real 
cost of anything which is produced. In fact the 
major part of the real cost is never calculated; 
and the rest is kept secret. [Debord] 

Dissenting views are virtually invis- 
ible in mainstream America. Broadcast 
television, malls and airports comprise 
"public space" for most people, and have 
produced a life where "...images chosen 
and constructed by someone else have 
everywhere become the individual's prin- 
cipal connection to the world he formerly 
observed for himself... [It is] a concrete 
experience of permanent submission." 
[Debord] In exchange for our self-doubt, 
the Spectacle reassures us that we are 
sharing in "real life" when we watch it 
happen on TV. After all, the representa- 
tion of life is "more real" than life itself 

Spectacular society leads us to dis- 
miss or at least trivialize our own experi- 
ences when it diverges too far from the 
official, received story. For example, the 
sustaining energy of the anti-Gulf War 
demonstrations in U.S. cities was in part 
drained by trivializing, limited media 
coverage. In San Francisco, 100,000 anti- 
war protesters were just another "opin- 
ion" alongside 300 pro-war protesters in 
the 'burbs. The reality of living through 
such a large demonstration became hard 
to believe when it was not reinforced in 






the "real" public sphere, TV. 

In keeping a profligate consumer 
society based on increasingly sharp class 
divisions and falling living standards from 
im- or exploding, the worldmakers have a 
difficult task. They must allow a decen- 
tralization in spectacle maintenance. 
They have to assume that the principles 
of spectacular society (mistrust of one's 
owTi experience, suspicion of other peo- 
ple's motives, belief in the bald-faced lies 
of the rulers, loneliness, resignation, and 
atomization) are so thoroughly internal- 
ized that most people will go on repro- 
ducing it independently of any real 
central control. 

New media tools like "morphing" 
and photo manipulation software have 
drastically eroded verifiability through 
images.'' The ability to manipulate con- 
sciousness and the appearance of reality 
has eroded with the loss of image believ- 
ability. The development of interactivity 
is an attempt to outflank the increasing 
emptiness of media consumption by 
using our participation to enhance the 
credibility of spectacular images. More 
importantly, the new media seeks to per- 
petuate the form of media commodity 
against an exploding world of direct, hor- 
izontal, free communication. 

E-mail and electronic discussion 
groups are bringing together new com- 
munities around shared ideas and inter- 
ests, but still very isolated. The millions 
of Internet users are mostly very alone as 
they "communicate" so it's difficult to see 
how underground communities can 
develop to reclaim the public space essen- 
tial to a free society. The impact of all 
these new connections hasn't been felt 

yet. I hope for the best, but can easily 
imagine a lot of empty, pointless verbiage 
flying around the electronic world, 
matched only by the enormous moun- 
tains of meaningless data gathered by our 
corporate and governmental institutions. 

Finally, this is what we face: to take 
the disparate strands of knowledge, cul- 
ture and meaning that we develop in our 
electronic activities (and elsewhere) and 
give them a life in the physical and politi- 
cal world. We must remove the con- 
straints of isolation imposed by our 
"interactive solitude" and make all aspects 
of our lives meaningfully interactive, so 
that we are forevermore the subject and 
creator of our own destinies! The threads 
of subversion we weave so quietly today 
must find their way to transform the self- 
destructive, brutal and dehumanizing life 
we actually live when we are at work, on 
the go, at school, and in the streets. The 
trust we place in electronic links must 
again find a common home among our 
social links, until electronic "experiences" 
take their rightful place as occasional sup- 
plements to a rich, varied human life. 

— Chris Carbson 


1. Paraphrased nicely by Doug Brent in Iniertek 3.4 
"Speculations on the History of Ownership," origi- 
nally published in EJoumal and not copywrited! 

2. Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, Verso, 
London; 1990 

3. The maneuvering currently underway is reminis- 
cent of the corporate conspiracy in the '40s and '50s 
to scuttle intracity urban rail systems when a cabal 
of General Motors, Firestone Tires, Phillips 
Petroleum, Mack Truck and Standard Oil of Ohio 
bought up rail systems and "modernized" city tran- 
sit systems by ripping out the tracks and replacing 
the trains with busses. The real goal was to get peo- 
ple off public transit and into private cars, a plan 
which worked pretty well, unfortunately. But much 
more is now at stake. The manufacture and mainte- 
nance of the images of global reality may be even 
more powerful than the establishment and control 
of a highly profitable, carefully controlled, enor- 
mously wasteful and finally doomed transit racket. 

4. Brent, op. cit. 

5. As late as the 13th century, land titles were often 
undated in England, possibly due to uncertainty 
among scribes as to the proper point in the past to 
begin counting: the creation of the world? the birth 
of Christ? the Crucifiction? (M.T. Clanchy, From 
Memory to Written Record: England 1066-1307, 
Harvard U. Press: 1979, cited in Ong, op. cit.) 

6. Advertisers will no doubt slip modern products 
anachronistically into the historic moments for 
added impression, as well as added revenue for the 

7. "Morphing" is a software process of transforming 
one face to another or to a made-up face by rearrang- 
ing the pixels mathematically. Photo manipulation 
software is somewhat better known, and gives the 
skilled user the ability to produce a counterfeit 
"prooP of virtually any scene one would care to have. 


3 3 

For those who think Art should imitate Life, 
sculptures like THE HAMMERING MaN in 
Seattle and THE DOOR Is ALWAYS OpEN in 
San Francisco hit the nail of life square on its helmet- 
less head. 

Showing the painful and all too common colli- 
sion of cyclist and car door, ThE DOOR IS ALWAYS 
Open was installed immediately prior to a Critical Mass 
bike ride by a faux bureaucratic "Dept. of Public Art. " 
The anonymous sculptors elegantly expressed the horrific 
Impact of automotive reality on everyday cyclists, a 
metallic reminder that in an age of steel and glass, we 
careen each day from blow to blow. 

And for those existentialists who see the myth 
of Sisyphus as the real key to everyday life, there is 
the 48 foot Hammering MaU that beats its anvil 
day in and day out, by the Seattle Art Museum. 
Valued at $450,000, the Jonathan Borofsky sculp- 
ture could be viewed as an aesthetic validation of 
mindless and monotonous behavior. 

On Labor Day, guerrilla art commandos mana- 
cled Hammering Man to a 700- pound ball and chain 
to underline the futility and horror of everyday work. 

"Hammering Man has been sentenced to 
endless drudgery and repetition, a 

ment our installation calls into question," commented 
Subculture Joe of these otherwise elusive art comman- 

Even the self-satirlzIng 

^The Himmerins M«n Wlth Ball & Chain 

sculpture by Jonothan Borofsky, boll 8, choin added by anonymous 
group with spokesperson "Subculture Joe." 

Seahle, urn. Post- Intelligencer was given pause 

to consider: 

"Perhaps the ball and chain were meant to 
symbolize the altered nature of work's role in society, 
the once proud work ethic represented by the tower- 
ing kinetic Borofsky sculpture now shackled by the 
modern concept of work as a burden, indentured 
servitude to a material world." 

We eagerly await news of the next artistic 
salvo in the war on normalcy... coming to a street near 
you. Art will surely strike thrice, all of us who are 
outside (or who are outsiders on the inside) can 
choose from an ever growing arsenal of art-as-informa- 
tion tools, reality blades, sculpture, graffiti, and 
posters. There are so many blanks in the social con- 
tract that are just waiting for you to dip your finger in 
that japester inkwell. 

Grab your spray- 
cans, chisels, felt-tip cursors, melting cameras, 
razors and light pens and take them to the street. 

— D.S. Black 

P.S.: On the train home after keying this article at 
PW, I picked up a newspaper and found this third 
(far from final) attack on the semiotic reality studios: 


"Altered Crosswalk Signs Give Strange 
Directions." Instead of WALK and DON'T WALK, 
it read WHY/WHY NOT TRY? in Greenwich 
Village; at 47th St. and Third Ave., pedestrians 
were prompted to CONFORM then CONSUME. 
Near the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the light 
was revised to say REPENT in red letters, before 
switching with relief to SIN. 


Aficionados of this genre of "Hacking, Slashing, and 
Sniping in the Empire of Signs' m\qh\ wish to pick up the recent 
pamphlet in the Open Magazine series: Cultvre Jamming, by 
Mork Dery, covers the ongoing assault on public message space, 
with discussion on media hoaxing, billboard olterotion, subvertis- 
ing, camcorder activism, audio agitprop, and other new hacks at 
the statist quo. S4 from Open Magazine, PO Box 2726, 
Westfield, NJ 07091 . Another indispensible source is Adbustets 
Quarterly {"ioma\ of the Mental Environment") $5.75 or $1 6/4 
issues from The Medio Foundation, 1 243 W. 7th Ave., Voncouver, 
B.C., Canada V6H1B7 

^The Door Is Always Open 

by the Depaftment of Public Aft 

3 4 


of the 

weapons are 
the ultimate 
technological horror of 
our time — destruction 
of unbelievable scope 
unleashed in an instant, 
anywhere on the plan- 
et. For those of us w^ho 
grew^ up in the shadow^ 
of the mushroom 
cloud there are few 
aspects of life that appear more 
inhuman or more uncontrollable. 
Having lived under "The Bomb" in 
Los Alamos in the 1950s and '60s — 
the son of a physicist who worked 
on thermonuclear weapons — I have 
long had an interest in industries of 
mass death (see "My Nuclear 
Family" PH/ #21). 

Despite the familiarity of "nukes," they 
are a largely invisible industry. Budgets and 
technologies are classified, factories are 
terra obscura, and the workers silent. For an 
entire generation the threat of a cold war 
turning hot was always present. Today, with 
the collapse of the USSR and the corre- 
sponding shifts in world tensions, it might 
seem that the threat is diminishing. 
Governments, however, continue to pro- 
duce and test nuclear weapons; designers 

At 3500 yards I could feel the heat, felt like someone had run a hot iron over the whole of my body, 

and I could see the hones in my elbow. I'm looking with my eyes shut, and it was just as clear as 

could be. ... So, the light comes up, and then it fades and ... goes almost to red. Everything is dark, 

but it's red... Then the ground starts to move, and it's caving in, and literally your world is coming 

apart ... the trench was snaking so violently, zigzagging, curving, and caving in. ... By the time we 

got out the dummies [of marines] are burning and there are brush fires behind us, and you're not 

looking anywhere but straight up, and the fireball is every color of the rainbow, green, blue, red... 

directly above us. It obliterated the sky. It had been a crystal clear day in the desert, but now all you 

could see was fire... I was sobbing and weeping, with no shame at all, as was every single guy 

there... We were supposed to be playing war. I promise you that you are rendered ituapable of 

doing anything warlike or otherwise... Having seen it once, nobody can ever explain to me how 

they continue to do this. I've always thought that they should take all tlie people who are so very 

interested and ... take them into the desert ... and give them a sltot if they like to play with tliat shit, 

give them a firsthand experience. None of this sheltered stuff with their bunkers and protective gear 

— Robert Merron recalling his experience as a 20-year-old Marine 

at a test of a nuclear device, "Hood," Nevada, July 5, 1957 

campaign for more money, and the back- 
ground radiation count continues to drift 
up as more water and land become toxic 
from seepage or fallout. 

Inside the Workshops 

Making nuclear weapons requires sub- 
stantial industry: they are not the products 
of solitary mad scientists, but rather of 
enormous collaboration and intricate tech- 
nologies. The Manhattan Project, which 
created the first atomic bomb, built several 
laboratories (Los Alamos, NM and Oak 
Ridge, TN in particular, but also many 
smaller facilities), a major nuclear reactor 
(Hanford, WA), and various supporting 
industries. In WW II the biggest issue was 
finding a design that would work; manufac- 
ture and assembly ("engineering" prob- 
lems) were considered secondary. Even 
these tasks consumed billions of dollars and 
changed the industrial face of the US. 


The design process remains 
obscured by secrecy and the arcane 
nature of the task. In the United States 
there are two centers for the designing 
of nuclear weapons — Los Alamos 
National Laboratory [LANL] and 
Lawrence Livermore National 
Laboratory [LLNL] near San Francisco, 
CA. The notorious Dr. Edward Teller, a 
Hungarian-born physicist, worked in 
Los Alamos in WW IL (Teller — with a 
dash of Kissinger — is the model for Dr. 
Strangelove in Stanley Kubrick's film.) 
Although Teller was brilliant, his most 
notable accomplishments were collabo- 
rations. He was dismissed from his job 
at Los Alamos because of his single- 
minded pursuit of a thermonuclear 
weapon at a time when all of the lab's 
resources were devoted to trying to 
build a fission bomb. {Fission is based on 
the rapid splitting of uranium or pluto- 
nium atoms, while thermonuclear 
weapons are based on the rapid fusion of 
hydrogen atoms.) In fact, his original 
design was unworkable. It took several 
more years and a crucial idea from 
mathematician Stan Lllam to make the 

fusion bomb possible. Teller then refined 
Ulam's idea (usually without credit), and 
pressed for the construction of an H- 
bomb. In order to advance his jihad 
against the evil USSR, Teller falsely 
accused the director of the Los Alamos 
lab. Dr. Robert Oppenheimer, of 
Communist sympathies and destroyed 
his career. As a result Teller was shunned 
by most of his former colleagues. My 
father, for example, had a yellow button 
that said "Uncle Stan Was Always 
Right" — a repudiation of Dr. Teller's 
intellectual and moral talents, and praise 
for Dr. Ulam. 

Teller pressed for the creation of a 
new facility to compete with Los 
Alamos. This was opened in July of 
1952 as the Lawrence Livermore 
Scientific (later National) Laboratory, 
and marks the beginning of a shift from 
weapons design driven by military-polit- 
ical needs to a process driven by the 
research centers. Although Teller was 
not the head of Livermore, he was the 
predominant force there, and he recruit- 
ed a number of talented but younger 
scientists. In addition to cutting himself 

THIS M«»fclH W«IL» 

















off from his old colleagues, who in the 
past helped him sort his good and bad 
ideas, he was now in a situation where 
few could argue with him. Perhaps as a 
result, Livermore's first two nuclear 
weapons tests were dismal flops, manag- 
ing only to bend — rather than vapor- 
ize — the towers the devices sat on. Their 
first thermonuclear test ("Morgenstern," 
April 6, 1954) was also a dud, while Los 
Alamos was running a series which 
exceeded designers' expectations, gener- 
ating yields of up to 15 megatons. 
(Nuclear explosions are measured — 
somewhat misleadingly — by the equiva- 
lent force of tons of high explosive; 1000 
tons of high explosive is 1 kiloton; 1 
million tons is a megaton; the weapon 
which destroyed Hiroshima was about 
13 kilotons.) While Livermore eventual- 
ly got its act together, it was an inauspi- 
cious beginning for the egotistical 

Over the next couple of decades, 
Teller pushed a number of ill-conceived 
ideas which upped the ante in the Cold 
War, such as a so-called "clean" bomb 
which would produce little radiation. 
Despite years of work and many tests 
the project was a failure, but it allowed 
Teller and his cronies to expand their 
work. In the early sixties he came up 
with the idea of lofting powerful nuclear 
weapons into space and detonating them 
to stop incoming enemy missiles. 
Consequently, he was a vocal opponent 
of treaties which both limited testing 
and forbade nuclear weapons in space. 
Although Kennedy ultimately accepted 
these treaties, the US arsenal kept grow- 
ing in size and complexity, and research 
continued with testing moving under- 

Curiously, Dr. Teller was dis- 
pleased at being known as the "father of 
the hydrogen bomb." A rhyme he com- 
posed for children (!?) reveals some- 
thing of his feelings: 

A stands for atom; it is so small 

No one has ever seen it all. 

B stands for bombs; the bombs are much 

graphic by Tom Tomorrow 

So, brother, do not be too fast on the trigger. 

3 6 


H has become a most ominous letter; 
It means something bigger, if not something 

He spent years after the creation 
of the hydrogen bomb seeking ways of 
reducing the threat of nuclear weapons. 
His enthusiasm for nuclear weapons 
seems to have diminished in proportion 
to the growth of the USSR's nuclear 
industry. He hated and feared the 
"Mutually Assured Destruction" 
(MAD) aspect of the weapons race and 
the balance of terror, and, as his ardent 
support for the anti-missile programs 
shows, he wanted to do something 
about it: not by reducing the threat 
through bilateral negotiations, but by 
neutralizing enemy weapons. 

One component of the Strategic 
Defense Initiative (SDI, a.k.a. "Star 
Wars") was a form of laser powered by a 
nuclear weapon that fires X-rays rather 
than visible light. Lasers have tradition- 
ally used crystals to focus light so that it 
is "coherent" — i.e. all the light is in the 
same wavelength and going in one 
direction. In the late 1970s at LLNL, 24- 
year-old researcher Peter Hagelstein was 
working on chemical-powered lasers for 
non-military applications. He came up 
with a way of making a tube filled with a 
gel embedded with metallic atoms in a 
carefully designed matrix. When 
exposed to radiation it would, according 
to computer projections, produce a 
beam of X-rays. This was a momentous 

The X-ray laser seemed perfect for 
anti-missile applications. It could in the- 
ory generate a beam that was a million 
times brighter than a nuclear bomb — 
which is already enormously bright. The 
focused energy of an X-ray laser heats 
the exterior of a missile or reentry vehi- 
cle and the incredibly rapid rise in tem- 
perature causes a shock wave that 
destroys the sensitive innards of the tar- 
get. Because the beams travel at the 
speed of light and are powerful over 
large distances, they did not have the 
problems of traditional — and slow — 
anti-missile systems based on rockets. 

The laser was attractive to the 

Reagan administration for various rea- 
sons. To some it was a useful bargaining 
chip with the Russians, as well as a way 
to increase military pressure on them. 
For others (including the President) it 
promised an end to the nightmare of 
MAD. A "defensive" component of the 
nation's weapons programs was useful 
in countering the growing anti-nuclear 
movement, which had grown rapidly 
due to Reagan's bellicose talk and the 
bipartisan support for an ever-expanding 

nuclear weapons arsenal. For Livermore 
it meant an increased budget and pres- 
tige at a time when serious negotiations 
were threatening to limit nuclear 
weapons programs. 

There were serious technical 
questions about the X-ray laser, but 
Teller never let reality stop him. He sold 
the program in Washington to various 
supporters of Reagan as a "realistic" pro- 
posal. His chief assistant in this was Dr. 
Lowell Wood at LLNL; the two generat- 


3 2 

Desert Is Net Waste LanJ 

ed a number of letters and presentations 
that consistently understated the diffi- 
culties of the X-ray laser (romantically 
dubbed "Excalibur"), and overstated the 
progress that had been made. When 
Wood's superior at LLNL, Roy 
Woodruff, head of the weapons pro- 

gram, tried to send letters correcting the 
false impressions that Wood and Teller 
were spreading, he was stopped by the 
lab's director, Roger Bazel. This pattern 
continued for years — the person ulti- 
mately responsible for the system was 
not allowed to tell the truth, while 

Teller and Wood 

calibur, of course. 
One technical issue 
was that the basic 
intensity of the 
laser was not being 
accurately mea- 
sured; what Liver- 
more had seen was 
an artifact of the 
experimental setup. 
The actual delivery 
system for the X- 
ray laser was 
attacked by oppo- 
nents of Star Wars 
as a violation of 
treaties against 
placing nuclear 
weapons in space, 
and was attacked by 
supporters of other 
SDI programs as 
being vulnerable to 
attack. After the 
Challenger and 
other mishaps vir- 
tually stopped the 
US space program, 
the number of 
launches required 
for SDI technology 
seemed impossible. 
Technical objec- 
tions paled before 
an overriding polit- 
ical objection: ef- 
fective anti-missile 
systems are offen- 
sive because they 
are capable of des- 
troying an enemy's 
missiles, leaving 
them open to one-sided destruction. 
And an X-ray laser itself is most useful 
as an overtly offensive weapon against 
enemy satellites. Excalibur was terminat- 
ed partly because of oversell by Teller 
and Wood, a series of disheartening 
tests, and the disintegrating "cost-effec- 


3 2 

tiveness" of the program as the cost of 
the X-ray kept rising ($3.7 biUion for 
1985-91) while countermeasures 
remained cheap. 

The X-ray laser program was 
heavily cut. Teller and Wood went on to 
pimp a new anti-missile system ("Bright 
Pebbles"), and the weapons makers 
shuffled back into the shadows. But 
they're still there, and the combination 
of new technology, personal ambition 
and political expedience guarantees that 
there will be more such programs — per- 
haps better thought out, but ultimately 
dancing only to their own tune. Bad 
ideas don't die easily — Teller is current- 
ly pushing SDI technology as a defense 
against asteroids hitting the earth! 
Anything, it would seem, to find a silver 
lining in the dirty cloud of nuclear 

Collateral Damage 

The problems do not end when 
the designers' work stops. While no 
American has been killed by the USSR's 
nuclear weapons, many people have suf- 
fered and died because of the US pro- 
gram. Ironically, many of the "warlords" 
victims were loyal patriots working at 
the test sites and factories, or were mili- 
tary personnel participating in tests. 
Other people lived in areas that received 
heavy doses of radiation. 

The first tests at the Nevada test 
range were in 1951, and although smaller 
than the enormous blasts in the Pacific, 
they were still dirty enough to contami- 
nate large areas. It is estimated that each 
of these tests released more radiation than 
the Chernobyl disaster. People quickly 
noticed problems — first with livestock 
dying or being born with grotesque 
abnormalities, and then with human vic- 
tims — some developing cancer (skin, 
bone, leukemia, brain, etc.), others suf- 
fering from brittle bones or compressed 
disks in the spine, and — again — birth 
defects (organs outside of the body, mal- 
formed limbs and faces, etc.). 

Curiously, there are some victims 
who still refuse to criticize the testing. 

Some remain convinced that national 
security requires it; others are afflicted 
by religion. The Mormons may have 
been a key element in the choice of 
Utah as a repository for the fallout 
that drifts away from the Nevada Test 
Site (tests are held only when the 
wind blows toward Utah). Because 
the government is seen as an exten- 
sion of God's will, these people are 
unlikely to raise their voices about a 
little fallout, especially after the gov- 
ernment minimizes the health risks of 
radiation — even saying it's good 
because it causes mutations — and 
lauding the chance to "participate" in 
our nation's defense. An interesting 
parallel is a recent proposal to build a 
toxic waste dump near Mennonite and 
Amish farmers; their religious values 
are against the agitation involved in 
resisting such plans. Others have 
never been told of the possible risks 
from fallout or wastes from industry. 

There are accounts of even more 
chilling "audience participation." During 
the Hood test, Robert Carter, then an 
enlisted man in the Air Force, saw cages 
and fenced enclosures, some of them 
containing animals burned almost 

beyond recognition; others held humans 
handcuffed to the fences. His account is 
backed by Marine Sergeant Israel 
Torres, quoted in the Washington Law 
Review (April 1990) as having seen 
"...people in a stockade — a chain-link 
fence with barbed wire on top of it. 
Their hair was falling out and their skin 
seemed to be peeling off. They were 
wearing blue denim trousers but no 
shirts.... Good God, it was scary." Both 
of these men were forced to submit to a 
coercive psychological program at the 
hands of military psychologists so they 
would not tell what they had seen. 

Other victims are more obscure, as 
the radiation covered virtually all of the 
US. Contaminated grain was sold on the 
market, lambs that died from radiation 
were sold as food, etc. Retired US Air 
Force Colonel Langford Harrison, 
whose job was to fly through the clouds 
after tests and obtain samples of debris, 
says "You haven't seen an atomic bomb 
until you've seen one of those down in 
the Pacific. You'd wipe out the entire 
state of New York in one fell swoop. It 
stretches out 125 miles across, a realiza- 
tion of man's insanity. In Nevada the 
clouds got only a couple of miles across. 


3 2 

3 9 

little firecracker ones by comparison." 
One shot, Tewa, during the Redwing 
series (which my father participated in) 
"was set off over Bikini and the cloud 
immediately came directly over Eni- 
wetok where we were living. We dis- 
cussed evacuating the island, but the test 
force commander said, 'it would scare 
the rest of the people if we evacuated,' so 
we had to stay. The thing dumped all 
the material on the island, in the sand, 
and everywhere. Of course, we lived on 
this island for ... five months." He was 
dying of cancer during the interview in 
July 1989, and added "There isn't any- 
body in the United States who isn't a 
downwinder, either. When we followed 
the clouds, we went all over the United 
States from east to west and covering a 
broad spectrum of Mexico and Canada. 
Where are you going to draw the line? 
Everyone is a downwinder. It circles the 
earth, round and round, what comes 

around goes around." 

Some people — downwinders and 
workers — have tried to sue the govern- 
ment for damages, but even the rare 
legal victories have been as short-lived as 
the victims themselves. Cases have been 
overturned, sometimes in circumstances 
that suggest conflict of interest, some- 
times because of overriding national 
interests. One landmark case for sheep 
owners in the late 1950s was reopened 
by the judge who had dismissed the 
original case when he determined that 
the US government had lied consistent- 
ly; his new decision was overturned. 
The government has threatened and 
searched people, destroyed documents 
(both their own and others'), and stolen 
parts of deceased victims. The state of 
Utah proposed a study in which north- 
ern Utah (itself heavily contaminated 
with fallout) was used as a baseline to 
see if there were any health problems in 

References of Interest 

>► The Making of the Atomic Bomb, (Richard 
Rhodes, Simon & Schuster, 1986, ISBN 0-671-44133- 
7). This is highly readable aaount of the politics, 
sdence and technology involved In the creation of the 
first nuclear bomb. First Rate! 

>► Teller's War: The Top-Secret Sloqf Behind 
the Star Wars Deception (William J. Broad, Simon & 
Schuster, 1992, ISBN 0-671-70106-1). To the author 
(a reporter for that less-than-loudable organ. The 
Hew York Time^ the issue is the more efficient and 
rational production of weapons; fortunately this is 
not the only message of the book. He looks into the 
shadowy labyrinths of the national security state and 
examines the interaction between extremely compli- 
cated technical endeavors and politicol expedience. 
Broad's book has its flows — in porticulor, because of 
his jingoism he never discusses liie spiral of the 
nuclear arms race, and how — surprise! — the US 
has always been the initiator in escalation. Still, it's 
worth the read. 

>^ At Work In The Fields Of The Bomb, by 
John Gerossi. This is a photo essay book with small 
articles that describes many aspects of weapons pro- 
duction from the mining of ore in Canodo, through 
the production cycle in which it is refined, shaped, 
irradiated, machined and welded with a myriad of 
components. One of the first images in the book is of 
a half-melted Buddha thot was at Ground Zero of the 
Hiroshima bomb. Lots of interesting essays and arti- 
cles (Dr. Moncuso on epidemiology, diagrams of H- 
bombs, etc.). Excellent book. 

>► The Samson Option: Israel's Nuclear 
Arsenal and American Foreign Policy (Seymour 
Hersh, Vintage Books, Jan. 1993. ISBN 0-679-74331- 
6). An in-depth account of the growth of Israel's 

nuclear weapons, looking at its effect on US policy. 
He does a good job of explaining who didn't know 
what, and when they first didn't know it. Curiously, it 
remains the official view of the US government and 
allies that Israel does not hove nuclear weapons ... 
this despite detailed knowledge of production at 
Dimono, overhead photos of deployed missiles, 
descriptions of neutron-warheads from walk-ins, and 
so on. Displeasing, not because of Hersh's work, but 
because of the depth of hypocrisy it reveals. 

>► Analysis of Six Issues About Nuclear 
Capabilities of India, Iraq, Ubya, and Pakistan, kn. 
'82 publication by the Library of Congress prepared 
for the Subcommittee on Arms Control, Oceans, 
International Operations ond Environment (whew!). 
Dry but informative about the technical oversight of 
proliferation treaties and the possibilities of manu- 
facturing nuclear weapons. 

>► American Ground 2ero: The Secret 
Nuclear War, by Carole Gallagher, MIT Press, 1993, 
Cambridge MA., ISBN 0-262-07146-0) is a beautiful 
book of photos and text. An excellent introduction 
looks at the Mormons and nuclear tests. She is on 
excellent photographer, and the words of the people 
who have endured these tests ore often moving. Of 
added interest ore some Dorothea Longe photos of 
St. George Utah in 1953 — right after the testing 
began. The quotes from Merron, Harrison and Carter 
ore from her book. 

>► Arms Control Today \s published 10 times 
a year by The Arms Control Association, 1 1 Dupont 
Grcle, Woshington, DC 20036. Dry and fairly staid, it 
has articles on nuclear ond non-nuclear proliferotion. 
The September 1993 issue has on oriicle on disman- 
tling arsenals of the former USSR 


southern Utah (also heavily dusted). 
This is a disingenuous way of making 
sure that no radiation problems are 

Nor are safety issues limited to 
testing; people involved with — or locat- 
ed near to — any step of production are 
threatened, from the mines and smelters 
(Canada, New Mexico, Nigeria, etc.) to 
the factories (Fernald, OH) and reactors 
(Savannah River, SC; Hanford), 
through the processing (Oak Ridge), 
production (Rocky Flats, CO; Pantex, 
TX), stockpiling, and disassembly. 
When Dr. Thomas Mancuso, working 
on a long-term study of people at 
nuclear production facilities, showed 
that there was no such thing as a safe 
dose of radiation, the data was classified 
and his clearance revoked, ending the 
study. Of course, there's more at stake 
here than just weapons — the "civilian" 
nuclear industry also does not want this 

More & More 

Consider the headlines. The US is 
negotiating with some republics that 
used to be part of the USSR to buy their 
nuclear weapons, and is also buying up 
scientists to keep them off the market. 
The major powers have all curtailed 
their programs (or at least testing, tem- 
porarily) because of cost, politics and/or 
contamination. But there are other 
nuclear powers, and many more wanna- 

During the "Oil War" against Iraq 
in 1992 — and since then — a major issue 
was whether Iraq had nuclear weapons, 
and if not, how close they were to pro- 
ducing them. In 1981 Israel bombed 
Iraq's main reactor at Osirak in order to 
disrupt Iraq's program. Inspections by 
the International Atomic Energy 
Commission at that time indicated that 
Iraq had not been violating the safe- 
guards of the Non-Proliferation Treaty 
by either making or retaining enriched 
uranium. Estimates released in a US 
Congressional study at about that time 
showed that Iraq, while more advanced 


than Libya, was significantly behind 
India (which now has a nuclear capabili- 
ty) and Pakistan (which probably still 
does not). This study, plus the material 
released by UN inspectors after the 
Gulf War, shows that the threat of Iraq's 
nuclear program has been greatly over- 
stated for propaganda reasons. 

In contrast, Israel's nuclear pro- 
gram dates back to the 1950s and has 
involved US covers for almost as long. 
Career bureaucrats in the State 
Department, Congress and the CIA 
learned that bringing up the subject was 
bad for one's career. Nobody wanted to 
hear the news. 

Just before dawn in the South 
Indian Ocean on September 22, 1979, a 
US VELA satellite picked up the tell-tale 
double flash of a nuclear weapon. 

Earlier, the Carter administration had 
dissuaded South Africa from undertak- 
ing what seemed to be a nuclear test, but 
here was clear evidence. A government 
blue-ribbon commission. The Ruina 
Panel, whitewashed the event. In an 
echo of the old inter-lab hostility, the 
Livermore group that worked on prolif- 
eration issues ("Z Division") remained 
mute, while scientists in Los Alamos — 
where VELA was designed — were furi- 
ous, even to the point of granting 
(off-the-record) interviews. My father 
made it clear that he spoke for other 
physicists at the lab when he denounced 
the report as "a load of horse pucky." 
For reasons of state power (and US 
prestige), the lie had to stand. 

Other countries continue to 
develop and test nuclear weapons — 

notably France and China — and others 
may soon be able to do so. Given US 
hypocrisy over Israel's program, the 
Non-Proliferation Treaty is regarded 
with cynicism by other nations. The 
NPT is twin sister to the "Atoms for 
Peace" program, set up in the 1950s to 
export US technology and provide 
advice on (and to monitor) foreign pro- 
grams for ostensibly peaceful nuclear 
technology. Under this program (as a 
quid pro quo for support of US policy 
in Afghanistan) Pakistan has received 
support for nuclear reactors and pro- 
cessing plants, but they have had trouble 
getting Krytons (high-speed timers 
sometimes used in strobe lighting, also 
used in nukes for triggering explosive 
charges), which Israel received without a 
blink of an eye. Pakistan, however, has 


3 2 

graphic byJ.F. Batellier 

received far better treatment than other 
US "alHes" such as Brazil and Argentina; 
obviously Iraq, North Korea and other 
"enemies" have little access to US tech- 
nology and aid. 

The dissolution of the former 
USSR has left in its wake four nations 
with a strategic nuclear capability: Russia, 
Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan. All but 
the Ukraine have taken steps to ultimate- 
ly destroy the weapons and stockpile the 
radioactive materials; the Ukraine's 
intransigence is now threatening to halt 
the whole process. Currently the 
Ukraine is the third largest nuclear 
power in the world with some 1700 war- 
heads. Because the components in war- 
heads break down with time (precise 
information on the rate of breakdown is 
classified), and certain isotopes become 
unusable within short periods of time, 
these weapons can't be counted on to 
work in the future . This puts nations 
without the industrial capability to make 
new nukes at a disadvantage, and 
enforces a "use 'em or lose 'em" psychol- 
ogy. There are also fears that weapons 
could be sold; even a "tactical" warhead 
would destroy a city. While many mod- 

ern systems have intricate safety mecha- 
nisms and require secret codes to be 
armed, it is not clear how many of the 
USSR's warheads were protected by such 

There is a practical way to use a 
nuclear weapon without setting it off: 
blackmail. The knowledge that an 
enemy state may have smuggled a 
nuclear weapon into one's own country 
may serve to modify policy; Israel is 
believed to have made its possession of 
small nuclear weapons known to the 
Soviet Union in the 1960s. While most 
large countries have some highly classi- 
fied programs aimed at detecting such 
weapons, their actual utility is question- 
able. Anywhere a border can be crossed 
by a vehicle, boat or plane, the chance 
exists. Blackmail can also be applied to 
allies: Israel deliberately made its nuclear 
capability known in the '73 war as a way 
of pressuring the US into delivering 
upgraded electronics for Israeli aircraft. 

While the United States desperate- 
ly tries to buy up the supply of Russian 
nuclear scientists to keep them off the 
market (or drive up the price?), other 
nations continue to stockpile, and more 

countries are achieving the capabilities. 
Contrary to popular fiction, there is no 
"A-bomb Secret" — the fundamentals are 
well known and the technology increas- 
ingly cheap. Each expansion heightens 
the risk of use; each war with a nuclear- 
armed foe raises the possibility that the 
weapons will be used (especially if the 
owner is losing); and each program 
means a large, but uncounted, list of vic- 

We are far from ending the threat 
of nuclear weapons; popular movements 
have crested, while the corporations 
(GE, North American Rockwell, 
Westinghouse, Dupont, etc., etc.) and 
universities press for contracts. The mili- 
tary still exists, and the lab managers tout 
arcane designs and new weapon systems 
which appeal to the "macho" hard-line 
mentality of politicians. Proliferation, 
like the rising toll of victims and the 
environmental damage, must remain a 
non-issue for these people. 

The consequences of this orga- 
nized crime will be with us for a long 

— Greg Williamson 

4 2 




The coast guard says it is continuing to search 
For more Haitians in the water, 
Said the national public radio. 

Fish and hatefodder, 

Swimming without gills, 

Stuffed with the starch of our perceptions 

Their eyes yellowed and moonstruck 

By the glare of our national eye; 

Peering in, 

We turn heads into lost cemetery numbers 

Frenzies of swollen and salted eyes, 

Festering in oceanic fear 

The U.S. is a jerk of the knee and heart, 

A baffling leap of mind. 

Good Night, Macneil-Lehrer, 
Good Night. 

Remote controls 
Fade out and faint out 
Into suppertime America 
Little Haitians, though, little Haitian-things 
Scurrying across the dinner table like lice 
Seeking asylum in the warmth of mashed potatoes, 
jockeying for sympathy amongst the peas. 
Sucking the blood from my London Broil. 
Those Haitians and those Cubans. 


During the lunch hour, I am gliding 

Along the silvery sheen of escalators 

Soaring in the grandiose public eye of Washington, 

Catapulting me onward toward the presidency. 

The sheen of perfume credit card and shopping bag expense. 

Of careers and responsibility, 

Shimmering at me through resume eyes, 

glittering from American Expressed Honolulu Vacations.. 

I felt very presidential today. 

Striding majestically into the break room, 

Doing my multi-tasks with style; 

Held a press conference at the Coffee Urn at noon, 

To outline my strategies for peace in the Middle East 

and Eastern Europe, 

And for a New American Order. 

What was Bush doing meeting with the pope on a day like today? 

His sidekick, career lapdog Eagle-burgher 

Busying himself 

With the blood-enraptured Serbs and Croats: 

Crazy fat Greeks and scowling empire Turks 

Stuck somewhere in between, 

They are fired up Mongrels, 

Dirty and unreasonable, 

Like Arabs. 

So many tribes to worry about, 

Eager-Burgher said. 

Those Serbs and those Croats 

Building little empires, killing little people, 


]ust a little bit bigger 

Than the flailing Haitians 

Of miasma overpopulation nightmares 

[Detention and detonation are similar worlds]; 


Silent oh-zone seethes away 

Like a hissing snake, 

Microwaving fields of cancerous corn and cattle 

and Miami, Florida early retirement deaths. 

The news today seemed more burdensome 

Than the average toll of deaths and insults 

Probably because I listened to it all day long 

Everybody kept killing everybody else 

Over and over again. 


In my carpeted downtown makework office, 

Afternoon time pours on 

Slow hand. 

Small hand, 


Lunch sifting through the veins. 

Everything here sticks to you: 

Cremora and Winston-salem on the throat and lung 

A veritable swamp down there these days. 

But who is worrying? 

Oh!-Zone seeps and pushes through late afternoon. 

Presiding in giant silence 

Over the clattering of mega-bites; 

It lurks and sulks behind the timeless questions. 

Such as: 

Which is worse, anyway, 

A broken law 

Or a broken heart? 


Afternoon updates: 

The horrifying bath of bloodwater death 

In the Philippines 

Makes poetry obsolete. 

You should not listen to the news all day 
The dead can really get to you. 

1 wonder if they have found any more Haitians 

Writhing in midnight nets 

Amongst the Starkist tunas. 

Somebody ought to sift them out 

From the slithering pile, 

They make for good laborers. 

It is nice to get a paycheck on a Friday. 

—Christopher Cook 



Been lying under sinks for years 

all that shit falling down in your face 

been doing it so long 

I don't even have to open my eyes, so long 

I don't even have to be there 

can't look at faucets without thinking 

how they come apart 

Or working on AC 

you know how filthy those 

apartment units can get? 

all that grease 8e roach crap 

(got my own freon recovery outfit, 

can't just vent that shit into the 

ozone anymore) 

I am by no means intrigued by air conditioning 

but 1 have obligations 

I keep everybody comfortable 

Damn laundrymat job 

that helper they sent me 

was an idiot 

almost electrocuted me 

you gotta understand electricity 

it's always looking for ground 

it fascinates me, 

it is my kin 

Mow lineman 

that was my true calling 

till my back went bad 

I'd put on those climbers 

(never mind the creosote bums) 

& I was on top of the world 

up in the sunlight with the hawks 

I could see a deer running over in the next county 

and the quiet 

1 could listen to electricity 

no obligations 

just listen to my ancestors. 

— Suzanne Freeman 


Like a flash of darkening 
in a naively blue slq' 
an ofihand slur 
from a minor-league boss 
transforms my mood 
and my digestion. 

A sidewise sneer, a careless word, 

a memo with the lightest criticism, 

and years of rage 

at the structured insult 

that is my life 

spew steam like surging espresso. 

Mights of heartburn. 

Thunderous fantasies. 

As my teeth shatter like falling teacups 

from my stifling, gritting rage 

our noble superiors 

stalk the world 

like the dinosaurs they are, 




as they trample unseen p>ersonas 


— Sam Friedman 


soapstone smooth 
as a breast's curve 

under caribou hide 

probably from 
Baffin Island 

wings too heavy 
to fly a 

mutated Icarus 
nose scarred 

from too many 
tries, grounded 

longing waiting 
for some thing 

from another planet 
to send magic lines 

like machines that 
can pull a plane 
into a carrier 

on the ocean clean 
as someone falling 
from Venus on 

to a stamp 

-Lyn Lifshin 




reads true crime paperbacks about murderers, rapists, psy- 
chos, killers. "I don't want to be a victim, " she says. "I want to 
be able to recognize these guys on the street and avoid 
them." She married a younger man she met at a honky tonk 
and he moved in with her and her mother. He immediately 
stopped working and sat around the house and watched tv 
and drank beer and ate fast food. He didn't mow the grass or 
take out the trash. He became angry when she told him to get 
off his lazy ass. "YOU BITCH!" he screamed. He grabt>ed her 
and threw her across the room. He went after her mother 
and threw his fists at her face and neck. She collapsed. He 
walked out and went to a bar down the street. At the hospital, 
she held her mother's hand. "I'm sorry, mama," she said. "1 
thought 1 knew the guy. I didn't know he'd tum out like this." 
She divorced him and hasn't been with a man for over a year 
now. She still lives with her mother. She still reads true 
crime paperbacks. "I gotta know who these guys are," she 
told me the other day. 

— Robert W. Howington 


Every morning the newspaper you steal from the neighbors 
discusses jobs, recovery, jobs, read: profits and you eat 
Quaker Oats for breakfast and you are in shameful love with 
the Mew York Times and its long-nosed prose about not the 
point and you remember the Quaker factory back in Cedar 
Rapids Iowa that made the whole city smell like grain vomit 
set aflame, you dwell on your uncle who dwelt there all his 
days worked in the factory for 35 years the usual story of 
never being sick or late once in his goddamn... blah, blah, 
blah. . . his view was the silo yard and his nose died to the 
smell which always made your throat bob even on the freeway 
passing by town and you root for another lie of the Times 
while 3 pass untackled, expenditures dwarf revenues and late- 
ly in the moming you've awakened with a mouth tight as a 
drawstring purse. 

— Linda Johnson 

the division of infinite Sfsace / conferring 

the mind's childhood what will be endurance 

war on the subject museum of future tense OUT 

of language acquisition 

as you like / or a way that an infant relates 

fixed to itself sexually exiting, leaves the walls 

'The birds are drunk again 
Speaking their own language" (Laura Moriarty) 
property, land, compartments 


all air is up for grabs 

the need to know it now: field empty 
to find the culprit / water's up front 
the enemy, another fi-ont wrong way 

do not enter ( this is a note to myself ) 
to remind myself that I'm here ( war of the roses ) 
I'm trying to translate the DMA / technical forces / the demand 
for novelty 

field EMPTY 
to exploit the new, the new has no historical baggage 
old lovers, ripe flesh "It's this passion which one 

could call white," 
( Anne-Marie Albiach ) 

compartments of secret knowledge 
father of Richard II, now dead in the tower 
by the king of infinite space 

— Alexcinder Laurence 


Bring all the blood you got and if it's not enough 

We'll make some. 

Afternoon of another damn writer in a t>ad mood. 

Don't these weenies ever lighten up? 

Late into the night a grad student schemes 

On how to increase the market share of poetry. 

Imagine a board meeting at which an exec says 

/ think a little tastefully-done Dadaist image 
Might serve us well here, open new markets. 


As I leave work today 

outside on the street I see 

myself collecting bottles 

from a garbage can. 

I ask myself for change 

but refuse on the ruse that I'm broke 

and I walk away from myself 

F>assing out of sight 

in opposite directions. 

— Clifton Ross 

Imagine an education. 

liever mind, forgot you're American: What you are 

Is so strange you don't even know how to learn about it. 

Stick to what we're best at: American Ingenuity. 

Disingenuous, but ingenious. "We did it their way." 

We got couples counseling, job counseling. 

We got data coming in through fiber optic cable, transatlantic 

Cable television, guitar cable. 

We're beating the band and the musicians are cowering. 
Positively kowtowing. 

We demand to be entetained at any price. 
And we wanna damnit know why it ain't art yet. 

—David Fox 



k^* * * _ „ „ 

4 ^ ^^^^^^^^^ w^w i ^ 

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tVM ^y ^y 1^ i^i^\ 

As the twentieth century 
closes, the USA has 
become what the New 
York Times at the time of the 
Gulf "War" called a "Hessian 
state": economical- 
ly depressed and 
backward in all 
areas except the 
military. The US 
capitalist class has 
come more and 
more to resemble 
the "comprador 
bourgeoisies" of 
Central America, 
living on income 
skimmed off by 
speculation or by investment in 
still poorer countries, while most 
domestic industry is foreign- 
ow^ned and the mean real wage 

There is spontaneous 

poetic oratory on 

street comers, often 

involving costume, 

sometimes electronic 

"special effects"; 
troubadours, rappers, 
and ranters circulate 

everywhere. Wild 

murals are painted on 

abandoned or 

squatted buildings. 

drops sharply below Western 
European levels. The majority of 
the employed are low-paid, inse- 
cure workers in banking, insur- 
ance, data processing, weapons 
manufacture, light 
assembly, domestic 
service, and retail 

Literacy beyond the 
third-grade level is 
becoming a minority 
acquisition, since real 
education has been 
almost completely pri- 
vatized and in most 
states only the well-to- 
do can afford college. 
The lower layers of the 
working population, 
part-time and short- 
term, shade off into a vast mass of des- 
perate unemployed. Between meager 
welfare checks (which must generally be 
worked for in the bargain), the unem- 
ployed support themselves by casual 

4 6 


3 2 

labor, street vending, petty crime, drug 
dealing, and prostitution. The latter, 
despite AIDS, is one of the few growth 
industries, catering especially to 
European and Japanese tourists, who 
love the ethnic variety afforded by the 
vast red-light districts of LA and NY. 
About three-fifths of all African- 
Americans, half of all Latinos, and a 
quarter of all whites experience "Third 
World" infant mortality, nutrition, life 
expectancy, and housing quality. 

Prodigal use of fossil fuels continues, 
along with a renewal of the nuclear 
power program. The consequence is the 

continued devastation of the Alaskan 
tundra, the California/Oregon coastline, 
the Dakotas, and large areas of the south- 
west (as "National Sacrifice Areas" for 
oil, coal, and uranium). Cancer clusters 
proliferate around the ever greater num- 
ber of toxic dumps and former industrial 
areas, as around nuclear plants. The US 
government, desperate for revenue, starts 
reprocessing spent nuclear fuel from 
abroad, as well as accommodating most 
of Japan's toxic wastes. There is deepen- 
ing ecological crisis as the Greenhouse 
Effect goes into high gear around 2010. 
With continental weather patterns dis- 

rupted, drought in the Midwest leads to 
famine in Eastern Europe and other 
countries dependent on American grain. 
Within the US, hunger increases. 

The military-police complex clings to 
this dying beast like a giant tick. Heavily 
armed police stage quasi-military occupa- 
tion of poor neighborhoods, using the 
pretext of "gang control" or else straight 
counterinsurgency. Civil liberties contin- 
ue to erode, for the poor especially. For 
the so-called middle class too, the free- 
doms of speech, information, and assem- 
bly are curtailed for reasons of "war on 
crime," or by the corporate "neighbor- 

photo by David Green 


hood associations" that increasingly run 
suburban enclaves, levying their own 
taxes, imposing rigid codes of conduct on 
residents, and operating their own securi- 
ty forces. Data collected through auto- 
mated transaction systems is accumulated 
into "virtual dossiers" on every citizen, 
linked by identifiers like Driver's License 
and Social Security numbers; these 
dossiers are used by both government 
and private intelligence services to target 
deviant behaviors, and to lock out trou- 
blemakers from employment, rental 
housing, education, loans, and informa- 
tional services. Attempts to organize 
workplace or rent strikes are routinely 
broken by racism, injunctions, and/or 
semi-official thuggery. Dissent, beyond 
the mildest and least effectual expres- 
sions, is effectively criminalized. 

Despite this clampdown (and also 
because of it) the 2010's see the growth 
of a sizable fascist movement of enraged, 
mostly young, barely literate whites (with 
a good sprinkling of college boys and 
professionals) who blame blacks and 
immigrants for economic decline. In 
some areas the fascists operate inside the 
shell of the local or regional Republican 
party, in others outside it as pseudo-pop- 
ulist formations; some are Christian 
Fundamentalists, others relatively non- 
religious racialists or even primitivistic 
polytheists like the core of the old Nazi 
SS. These white nationalists often attack 
workers and people of color; but they 
also fight the police, believing them to be 
deluded agents of the "Globalist 
Financial Elite." 

The old-line reformist African- 
American and Latino leadership is help- 
less in the face of this onslaught. 
Younger working-class black and brown 
people respond at first mainly with dem- 
agogic or protofascist forms of national- 
ism a la Nation of Islam — patriarchal, 
misogynist, homophobic, counter-racist 
and often anti-Semitic, and deeply 
authoritarian. (These tendencies are 
reinforced by the large numbers of 
young men who have been part of race- 
based prison mobs.) Uniformed mili- 
tants of these rival political gangs patrol 
the borders of their respective ghettos, 
clashing occasionally in firefights in 
which the police hesitate to intervene. 
Within these borders, they practice terror 
and extortion. They are most viciously 

hostile to any tendency that seeks to 
make common cause across racial lines 
and according to class interest. 

At the behest of transnational corpora- 
tions (TNCs), the US military gets into 
one counterinsurgency "resource war" 
after another — to protect copper in Chile 
or Zambia, oil in the Mideast or Africa, 
European and Japanese factories in Brazil 
or Korea, or on behalf of local client 
states like Kuwait. US troops are also 
used, sometimes under UN auspices, 
sometimes not, to police regional ethnic 
or religious conflicts where the extrac- 
tion of strategic resources may be affect- 
ed, as in Somalia in the early '90s. When 

graphic by Hugh D'Andrade 

urban insurrections break out, as they do 
with increasing frequency and despera- 
tion despite ever-more brutal repression, 
these troops are also flown in to back up 
the militarized police and the National 

The concentration of media ownership 
in hands of large TNCs continues, lead- 
ing to virtually total press self-censorship. 
A plethora of "McNews" TV channels 
cheerlead for the government, except 

when their knees jerk in Rockette-style 
unison against any reform that might 
limit the power or mobility of capital. 
Entertainment mostly continues dumb- 
ing down into violent/soft-pornographic 
comic-book movies, or else wholesome, 
heartwarming kitsch for the whole (het- 
erosexual, conservative, conventionally 
religious) family. This situation is not 
essentially changed by the proliferation of 
TV channels and the spread of "interac- 
tivity," since the terms on which the sto- 
ries can be altered by audience members 
to suit their own tastes are defined by the 
"intelligent" software that generates the 
simulacra of characters and settings from 
corporate image libraries. Similarly, 
books are marketed by demographic seg- 
ments with a heavy racial slant, as pop 
music has already been for decades. 

Trickling Opposition 

A trickle of critical and independent- 
minded work still makes it onto the mar- 
ket, however, simply because the market 
for it exists. Amid mountains of reac- 
tionary rubbish, oppositional content 
slips through: talk shows where social 
issues are debated under the disguise of 
"family problems"; populist thrillers 
about tracking down fascist conspiracies; 
social dramas with a feminist or pro-poor 
slant; a lesbian family sitcom so popular 
that the network doesn't cancel it despite 
fundamentalist pressure. 

"Serious" or "high" artists, meanwhile 
continue to divide into three castes: suc- 
cessful servants of the rich (fashionable 
painters and sculptors who've clawed 
their way up through the NY and LA 
art-marts, and their equivalents in litera- 
ture); academic artists and writers with 
secure gigs in colleges, doing safe, most- 
ly apolitical, sometimes vaguely "experi- 
mental" art or novels that sell 2,000 
copies; and marginal Bohemians living 
in decaying urban neighborhoods, pro- 
ducing poetry, experimental video, and 
performance art, as well as traditional 
visual forms and avant-pop or garage- 
grunge kinds of music. 

By contrast with most commercial and 
subsidized art, the urban subcultures 
produce work that ranges from nihilist to 
fiercely oppositional. Black and Latino 
nationalists also produce propaganda art 
analogous to old Soviet-style "Socialist 
Realism" — nostalgic stereotypes of noble 
Africans or Aztecs, cartoon villain whites. 

4 8 


3 2 

and gross anti-Semitic caricatures. There 
is lots of apocalyptic fantasy — Christian 
and Islamic Revelation motifs, visions of 
bloody massacre and revolution both Left 
and Right, agonized requiems for the end 
of life on Earth. But other work illumi- 
nates subversive possibilities, humorous- 
ly or bitterly attacking the rules of race, 
gender, money, work, and the social hier- 
archy generally. 

At first, most of this material doesn't 
get out of the subculture ghettos. 
However, the now more multiracial 
inner-city intelligentsia eventually syn- 
thesizes "neo-hop," descended from hip- 
hop, various Afro-Caribbean musics, 
punk^metal, and rap on the one hand and 
old-style underground video and perfor- 
mance art on the other. Neo-hop in turn 
generates a growing slew of independent 
multimedia producers who use pirated 
video-capture, music-sampling, and ani- 
mation software to produce hybrid "vir- 
tual performance" or "garage reality" 
shows. These circulate as optical disks or 
as encrypted, compressed feeds onto 
computer networks and outlaw BBSs 
(since there are now too many local 
phone systems to control completely). 
The "ops" and "feeds" range in quality 
from the crude to the highly sophisticat- 
ed, and in tone from the gritty to the sen- 
sual or mind-warping. 

Slowly, and especially in the West, the 
Southwest, the North, and the 
Northeast, cross-cultural tendencies gain 
in strength, fueled by the impotence of 
narrow nationalist politics in the face of 
generalized economic and ecological 
breakdown. Cultural collaboration and 
dialogue helps to crack the racial barriers 
here and there, as does common struggle 
over toxic dumps and other ecological 
concerns. The Green movement, now 
substantially composed of poor and 
working-class people, becomes the cru- 
cial site of cross-racial alliance, in gen- 
uinely grassroots groups like the 
Southwest Coalition for Environmental 
& Economic Justice headquartered in 
Tijuana, or Chicago's People for 
Community Renewal. 

As the TNCs continue to shed work- 
ers, the marginal classes acquire many 
skilled engineers, programmers, and 
technicians. Media sabotage becomes, if 
not common, by no means infrequent: 
TV newscasts are overridden by guerrilla 

feeds that camouflage themselves with 
simulacra of the newscasters, sitcoms 
suddenly swerve into the horrific or the 
subversive, televangelists appear to spout 
anarchist rants or tear off their clothes on 
camera. Street demonstrations, riots, 
looting festivals, sit-ins, sickouts, and 
slowdowns multiply. Counter-terror 
begins: a slumlord shot in a drive-by, a 
homophobic demagogue executed on 
camera by "Queer Commandos," an 
executive beaten in the supposedly secure 
parking lot while the cameras are down. 

The New Divide 

Too little and too late, the elite starts to 
respond. Job-sharing plans (at reduced 
pay) are instituted. A guaranteed mini- 
mum income via "negative income tax" is 
established (but too little to live on). 
Health care is reformed — again. Tough 
global restrictions on carbon emissions 
are reached. In a series of show trials, 
executives of some large polluters are 
actually sentenced to prison. Emergency 
farming and food distribution programs 
are created. Statutes against "hate crimes" 
are toughened. 

graphic by Hugh D'Andrade 

Despite these modest achievements. 
Greens and progressives are unable to 
push through strong enough corporate- 
responsibility laws (and a renewal of 
civil-rights protections) because the 
Demopublican Right retains control of 
the Senate. The Federal government is 
increasingly paralyzed by continual 
infighting between these diehards and 
the more enlightened wing of the elite. 
Meanwhile, the acuteness of the deficit 
forces further massive cutbacks in 
Federal services, especially inspection and 
oversight, leading to further disasters. 

In response, several Western states 
(Washington, Oregon, California, New 
Mexico) pass corporate-responsibility 
laws, as do Wisconsin, Minnesota, 
Illinois, and Michigan in the Midwest, 
and Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, and 
New York in the Northeast. Many cor- 
porations flee to unregulated states, espe- 
cially in the South (Alabama, Mississippi, 
Louisiana, and Texas) and the Southeast 
(North and South Carolina, Virginia, 
Kentucky, and Tennessee). They do this 
rather than go abroad because most for- 
eign options have become either too risky 


or uneconomic — wages are too close to 
US norms, local infrastructure is inade- 
quate, or production costs are too high. 

Between these two main groups of 
states, political polarization grows rapidly. 
Corporate-driven governments in "Free- 
market" states encourage bigotry to pre- 
vent organizing; whites are racially 
mobilized via fundamentalist churches as 
well as local and regional media. "Fascist 
realism" becomes the dominant media 
style, including both pseudo-historical 
docudrama with racist and anti-Semitic 
themes and live audience-participation 
witch hunts against dissidents and 
queers. "Traditional values" — capitalism, 
patriarchy, racial hierarchy, and mindless 
obedience — saturate the informational 
environment. Countering the official 
media are clandestine ops and feeds, graf- 
fiti, posters, semi-underground concerts 

and poetry performances. Churches — 
black Protestant in the South, Catholic in 
the Southwest — also become crucial cen- 
ters of opposition because of the legal 
protection still afforded them. 

By contrast, governments in "Green" 
states are backed by coalitions of Green 
parties and local environmental issue 
groups, women's and gay groups, 
African-American and Latino organiza- 
tions (though not the extreme-nationalist 
groups), and the remains of the unions. 
They are joined by "progressive" indus- 
trialists and businesspeople: credit unions 
and co-ops, recyclers, soft-energy entre- 
preneurs (solar engineers, windfarmers), 
bioengineers involved in earth-restora- 
tion projects, some computer companies, 
organic food producers and retailers. 
Public-access cable networks expand, 
rebroadcasting community-made ops and 

graphic by Hugh D'Andrade 

feeds. As neighborhood groups multiply, 
they create frequent street carnivals, with 
music, costumes, and masks, that invade 
downtown office buildings and other 
workplaces. There is spontaneous poetic 
oratory on street corners, often involving 
costume, sometimes electronic "special 
effects"; troubadours, rappers, and 
ranters circulate everywhere. Wild murals 
are painted on abandoned or squatted 
buildings. People begin making their 
own clothes and adding neoprimitivist or 
baroque ornamentation to their houses. 

Both sets of states develop informal 
federative ties with each other, providing 
mutual aid of various sorts. Free-market 
states share databases of "subversives," 
organizers, and homosexuals and send 
police and National Guard reinforce- 
ments to each other as needed. A fascist 
coalition forms, subsidized by some of 
the TNCs, which provides financial aid 
to "conservatives" in Green states seeking 
to depose what they call "rosebud" (pink- 
and-green) majorities. In Green states, 
barter and other arrangements develop to 
deal with scarcities caused by corporate 
flight. There are modest low-interest 
development loans from better-off states 
to poorer ones. Neighborhood self-help 
and other grassroots groups dealing with 
housing, pollution, and education multi- 
ply and get coordinated across state lines, 
helped in some cases by radicals in local 

Workers in Green states seize work- 
places being shut down by fleeing corpo- 
rations, initially to hold them to ransom, 
again often with the tacit or even open 
support of local government. Some of 
these workplaces — light engineering and 
electronics plants, food production and 
distribution centers, and so on — the 
workers begin operating themselves. 
Others are simply shut down as useless 
toxic pest holes. With the help of Green 
techies and some university engineering 
and science departments, the seized 
industrial facilities are converted so as to 
pollute less, conserve resources, and use 
alternative forms of energy — as well as to 
be safer and more enjoyable to work in. 
Industrial planning networks form based 
on workplace committtees and city coun- 
cils. In blighted urban centers, landscap- 
ing, rooftop and lot gardening, and 
bio-installation art become popular. 
Neighborhood repair shops and tool 



libraries spring up. 

Now grassroots-led workplace 
takeovers and "Green bans" — shutdowns 
of polluting or otherwise harmful work- 
places — accelerate. Bank workers and cor- 
porate clericals sabotage fund transfers and 
capital movements. A coalition of erst- 
while corporate owners appeals to the 
Feds, who mobilize the National Guard in 
some Green states to take back the seized 
or closed facilities. There are mutinies and 
mass desertions after troops are ordered to 
fire on the workers and residents blockad- 
ing the plants. The regular army is sent in 
and meets huge popular resistance. This 
mostly takes the form of mass unarmed 
demonstrations, but also involves sniper 
attacks as well as the usual jamming and 
disruption of communications. 

Meanwhile, in Free-market states, 
opposition is growing. Green and black 
organizations, now semi-clandestine 
because of repression, make common 

cause with poor whites in and around 
chemical plants and oil refineries along 
the ultra-polluted Gulf coast. Green-state 
radicals send in clandestine organizers, 
technology (electronic gear, sabotage 
software), and funds to aid the opposi- 
tion. In the old Black Belt, African- 
Americans form a huge coalition that 
stages armed counter-demonstrations 
against fascist attacks. There are bloody 
riots in several Southern cities that leave 
hundreds dead and large areas burnt to 
the ground. Strikes and boycotts begin to 
spread in spite of fierce repression. Death 
squads, led by "off-duty" police, wage all- 
out terror against black and brown orga- 
nizations. Police HQ's are blown up in 
retaliation. Following an appeal by 
embattled Chicanos, thousands of armed 
Mexican workers march across the Texas 
border and engage in pitched batde with 
the police and the Guard. Martial law is 
declared across the South. 

Green state governments collapse as all 
Federal funds are cut off and state capi- 
tols are seized by armed Federal agents 
and airborne troops. The President, with 
a minimal Congressional majority, sus- 
pends the Constitution and attempts to 
put national martial-law plans into effect 
via FEMA, state militias, and crack coun- 
terinsurgency troops. Mass roundups of 
Green, worker, African-American, and 
Latino activists begin. Large demonstra- 
tions and strikes spread: the national 
economy is paralyzed as highways and 
rail lines are blockaded and airports 
closed. In Seattle, several hundred 
unarmed demonstrators including 
women and children are slaughtered. As 
word of the massacre spreads, many 
Army units desert; some go over to the 
rebel side. There are small-arms and tank 
battles in cities, with bitter house-to- 
house fighting. 

The Revolutionary Democratic 
Federation (RDF) is formed from already 
existing regional councils of neighbor- 
hood, worker, and ethnically-based 
groups and planning bodies as well as the 
remains of local government. The 
Federation declares independence from 
the USA in about thirty states where it 
now controls production, communica- 
tions and transportation and runs its own 
militias. The Federal government collaps- 
es as mass desertions from the military 
continue. A vast demonstrator-army of 
mostly black poor people sweeps into 
central DC and begins seizing and trash- 
ing government buildings. The President, 
top officials, and generals flee to Houston. 
The Free-market state regimes, most of 
which have been completely taken over 
by fascists, likewise collapse over the next 
few months after many thousands of 
deaths from violence, hunger, and dis- 
ease — as well as a reactor accident that 
leaves a large swath of Tennessee unin- 
habitable. The rebels, having seized 
power, affiliate with the RDF. 

The USA is formally dissolved into the 
North American Democratic Federation. 
The new Federal government retains 
much of the Constitution minus the role 
of President, the Senate, and the Electoral 
College, but with all of the Bill of Rights, 
plus new amendments banning private 
(as opposed to cooperative) ownership of 
more than 40 acres of land, denying cor- 
porations the rights of persons, and mak- 


3 2 

5 1 

ing representatives subject to strict man- 
date and immediate recall by their elec- 
tive bodies. The Federation also declares 
social ownership and citizen-worker 
management of all workplaces involving 
more than twenty people, including 
industry, telecommunications, and trans- 
portation (this law simply ratifies accom- 
plished fact). 

These legal measures are the tip of a 
huge iceberg of social transformation, 
especially around work. Few people 
spend more than twenty hours a week on 
their "job" (now called a Share, as in 
doing one's share); but there is strong 
social-ethical pressure on everyone able- 
bodied and -minded to do at least ten 
hours. New products (other than stan- 
dardized components like screws and riv- 
ets, electrical and electronic gear, 
plumbing parts, and tools, whose produc- 
tion is as automated as possible) are now 
customized imaginatively by teams of 
makers who develop group stylistic signa- 
tures. Entrepreneurship is encouraged 
less by monetary reward than by public 
acclaim in competitions between work 
groups or cooperatives. 

Money is used less and less as more 
goods and services, beginning with com- 
munications and basic foodstuffs, are dis- 
tributed gratis to those who need them. 
Farmers' markets, barter-marts, and skill 
swaps are established everywhere. The 
banking, insurance, and advertising 
"industries" cease to exist. Now unused, 
most office towers and shopping malls 
are converted or demolished. Private 
automobiles are banned from cities, 
which are "villagized" by the breakup of 
all but a few large through streets and the 
burying of most public transit under- 
ground. Bicycles are now the most preva- 
lent form of wheeled transport. Trees 
become a vital medium of space-shaping 
as well as objects of veneration. 

Tract-home sprawl is gradually broken 
up as mid-range (suburban) population 
density is made illegal; some suburbs are 
demolished and plowed under for farm- 
land, others are condensed into villages 
and small towns with their own centers 
and workplaces. Long-distance commut- 
ing becomes a rarity. Between cities, 
high-speed and local trains replace the 
automobile as the main means of trans- 
portation. Fossil-fuel burning is cut by 
two-thirds within five years, and the 

remaining gasoline-powered vehicles are 
subjected to strict C02 emission control. 
Reforestation becomes a major social 
project, involving hundreds of thousands 
of mostly young people who do tours of 
duty in wilderness areas and in green 
belts around cities. 

The tendency to regionalism becomes 
more marked, though TV, computers, 
and phones, as well as shared networks of 
basic industrial production, keep every- 
one connected. Regional and central 
broadcasting groups assemble and digest 
local news off satellite and cable feeds for 
rebroadcasting, and news databases make 
survey possible on any topic. Also, there 
are strong Federal laws about civil rights 
and ecological matters. New chemicals 
require years of rigorous testing in "artifi- 
cial biospheres" before manufacture is 
allowed. Similar restrictions are made on 
genetic engineering, which is now mostly 
devoted to breeding bacteria and viruses 
to clean up toxic wastes, and to finding 
treatments for the still-spreading cancer 
and immune-failure epidemics the wastes 
have caused. Fertility drugs and surrogate 
motherhood are banned; any alteration of 
the human genome is subject to tight 
restriction, testing, and eventual Federal 
referendum (the elimination of genes for 
hemophilia, Downs, Alzheimer's, and 
some others are approved in this way). 

The women and men of the mid-twenty-first 
century in what used to be the U.S. are both 
kinder and hardier then those of a century earlier. 
They are imaginative, playful, sarcastic, egalitari- 
an, multi-skilled, intense in concentration and 
pride in their work, quick to sympathize and help, 
eloquent and fierce in debote, rooted in communi- 
ty and region but prone to switch occupations sud- 
denly and to become migrants in middle life. 

As cities are reconstructed and trans- 
formed, poetic architecture begins to 
develop: people knock out back fences 
between houses to create open lawns and 
bamboo jungles, build covered bridges 
between apartment houses, create arbors, 
arcades, and tree-lined walks with sculp- 
tures. While private space does not disap- 
pear, it becomes more porous to the 
common life. Elaborate neighborhood 
games — like ringolevio in Italian neigh- 
borhoods in Brooklyn — provide oppor- 
tunities for courtship, friendly rivalry, 
and adventurous encounter. The new 

public spaces also foster music and per- 
formance festivals, like the old Welsh 
Eisteddfodd, involving complex poetic 
improvisation around agreed themes and 
styles, but often also making use of com- 
puter and VR technology. 

Public and group ritual becomes fre- 
quent again for all sorts of occasions. 
There are rites of passage for traditional 
occasions like birth, death, coming to 
maturity, sexual partnership, and for new 
ones like joining a work group, a neigh- 
borhood, or some other cluster, as well as 
for "breaking up" or departure. Seasonal 
festivals like Christmas-Chanukah- 
Solstice become communal celebrations 
of the year's turning. 

The new world is far from perfect. 
Society must contend with the hideous 
social and ecological legacy of the corpo- 
rate-oligarchic era: chronic agricultural 
shortages and unpredictable weather 
because of the Greenhouse Effect; a 
much reduced average life expectancy for 
the next two generations owing to cancer 
and other environmentally induced dis- 
ease; residual racial hatred, misogyny, and 
homophobia; and a less obvious but also 
terrible heritage of "post-traumatic" syn- 
dromes including anxiety neurosis, psy- 
chosis, and drug addiction. There are still 
(though far fewer) murders, crimes of 
passion, assaults, rapes, and even rob- 
beries. But there is far less social stimulus 
to such behavior, and — despite greatly 
reduced governmental intervention in 
daily life — much less tolerance for it. A 
face-to-face-based, communal society can 
deal with these things much better before 
they get out of hand. 

In general, then, the women and men 
of the mid-twenty-first century in what 
used to be the United States are both 
kinder and hardier than those of a centu- 
ry earlier. They are imaginative, playful, 
sarcastic, egalitarian, multi-skilled, 
intense in concentration and pride in 
their work, quick to sympathize and help, 
eloquent and fierce in debate, rooted in 
community and region but prone to 
switch occupations suddenly and to 
become migrants in middle life. They 
share, besides, a bittersweet appreciation 
of passing beauty fostered by the ever- 
presence of death and loss, and a passion- 
ate love of the life -web that sustains them 
and that they must now steward if they 

are to survive. 

— Adam Comford 

5 2 


3 2 


"There are two kinds of cyclists," my 
instructor told me when I first learned to 
ride, all those many years ago. "Those 
who have gone down, and those who are 
about to." 

Dealing with impatient drivers can lead 
to frayed nerves and worse. One Friday 
afternoon, I was riding home on my 
ownsome, when I had a run-in with a 
van. This is the sort of situation where 
purely physical laws apply; the scales of 
justice are not swayed by merit or right of 
way, merely mass — and it's critical in the 
worst way. 

Defensive riding is survival. The prob- 
lem was the part of South Van Ness I was 
riding on has an awkward on-ramp 
entrance to the freeway that many drivers 
see too late, and there is no lane a cyclist 
can easily use to steer clear of this chaotic 

As I was trying to get by the scrunched- 
up knot of cars approaching the on ramp, 
there was a van in the outer lane trying to 

pThere is nothing to slow time 
t down more than to sail 
I through the air towards an 
wicertain impact. 

swerve right into the feeder lane. She 
was close to overshooting the freeway 
entrance, and I was anxious to get past 
her and the other cars. There was no 
sidewalk I could pull onto, the only way 
to get past the on ramp was straight 
ahead. As I tacked forward this van 
surged right and knocked me and my 
bike off our mount. 

There is nothing to slow time down 
more than to sail through the air towards 

an uncertain impact. My life did not 
strobe before my eyes, but I did have time 
to reflect on its timing; this mishap came 
on the heels of another, as my housemate 
had just two days earlier opened his knee 
up in a motorcycle accident. 

Those who have gone down, and those who 
are about to... I ground my teeth and 
cursed the woman at the wheel of her 
suburban Toyota van. I cursed, as I land- 
ed in the dust, as my gloved hands 
absorbed the brunt of the broken glass 
and ja^ed pebbles that cluttered the gut- 
ter. My body continued to roll forward 
until my ribs and the right side of my 
back braked against the curb. 

She stopped but did not get out of her 

vehicle. I, on the other hand, was already 
out, way out there, there was no in for me 
to go, except unconsciousness. I scram- 
bled shakily to my feet, amazed that 
nothing was broken by the fall. 

As she rolled down her window, I 
stopped cursing. "Are you all right?" 

I mumbled, "Seem to be." 

"Is your bike all right?" 

"I don't know, let's see." The chain 
had come off, but the wheels turned. 

"I'm going to go now," and she rolled 
up her window and drove on, onto the 
freeway, another urgent motorist, a cell in 
a foul slipstream of traffic, spewing 
monoxide exhaust. 

Clearly I was not thinking properly 


3 2 

5 3 

when I let her go. I was perhaps in a state 
of shock, and while I couldn't see (or, for 
that matter, immediately feel) the extent 
of my injuries (like the long angry welt 
across my back where I hit the curb) 
until I got home, I was pretty shook up. 
After putting the chain back on, I 
remounted my bike and continued the 
few blocks to my house. 

"It's a dangerous world out there," I 
reminded my housemate. 

"No shit," he responded, scratching 
the splint on his left leg. "I know you 
care for me, but you didn't have to go 
have an accident to, like, be my compan- 
ion in misery." 

After changing my torn and dirty 
clothes, I pedalled back downtown to 
join some friends for happy hour. They 


graphic by Hugh D'Andrade 

raised my spirits a bit, although I was 
called a fool and lambasted for not get- 
ting the driver's license and insurance 
info. I do wish I'd had more presence of 

mind to stop her, when she was rolling 
up her window and about to go. 

The lesson for myself and any other cyclist or 
cyclist-to-be, who might he slow on the uptake: 
always get the driver's ID and insurance data 
in any kind of collision involving another vehi- 

Encased in their steel and glass shells, 
they might outweigh and loom over you, 
but if they should mess you up in any 
way at all — make 'em pay. It's not just 
your bike, but your body that needs satis- 
faction for the personal and social injuries 
inflicted on us by careening and callous 
motorists who race with all the urgency 
of steel sperm on speed. 

— D.S. Black 

TWO wsi^XiS @@0©l F©irmw3 

Sure, most drivers suck — they're thoughtless and 
arrogant, paying little or no attention to the 
world around them. But that's hardly unusual 
in the city — ^watch the pedestrians. They wander 
aimlessly, slowly, in a world of their own — slowly, 
that is, unless they are seized by the "race" mentality 
when someone threatens to pass them. When by 
happy chance they actually recognize each other, they 
think nothing of chatting in the 
middle of a door, a sidewalk, or an 
escalator, blocking everyone else. 
While I have to admit New York 
City's foot-borne traffic is more 
alert (well, they have to be), 
there's a certain herd mentality 
that controls the masses as they 
jam into subways, through turn- 
stiles, etc. 

Then there are the myriad wheeled peoples powered by mus- 
cle — skateboarders, roUer-bladers and bicyclists who are forced 
to compete with mechanized traffic. While more observant than 
a metal-clad driver, they too seem unaware of anything small- 
er/slower than themselves. Indeed, judging by the behavior of 
some, the idea is to make everyone else look out for them. The 
villains here are not messengers or other pros who often have to 
do outrageous stunts simply to keep their jobs. As with long- 
distance truckers, corporate demands fly in the face of both law 
and common sense. 

Consider the UC Berkeley campus, which long ago had total 
bans on bicycles on sidewalks, recently re-imposing a limited 
ban during "business hours." While bicyclists are trying to end 

the law by smashing the signs, they seem to ignore the reasons 
for the new limitations: shitty bike riders. A steady trickle of 
known casualties is only the most bloody sign of their behavior; 
there are many more accidents which don't result in more than 
bruises and bad feelings, plentiful narrow escapes, and a con- 
stant threat for less-than-totally-aware pedestrians. Apparently, 
it's just too much of an effort to walk their bikes for a few dozen 
yards to a road. 
Well, maybe the problem ain't the way the asshole gets 
around, maybe the problem is in the ass- 
hole itself Certainly, a ton of metal is a 
Well, maybe the problem ain't far more lethal instrument than a bicycle 

is, and malefactors at the wheel of a car 
the way the asshole gets deserve far harsher judgment for the 

threat they pose. Undeniably, the 
around, maybe the problem is Average American Motorist (AAM) is a 

heavily subsidized creature which leaves 
in the asshole itself. »" '^s wake clouds and pools of petro- 

chemical pollution. With an average 
occupancy of one person per car it's no 
surprise that traffic is such a mess. 

Simple: Ban Cars! 

Or keep making them more expensive to get people off the 
road, thereby reducing congestion and pollution. A laudable 
idea, but one which should be considered more carefully. 

Beyond the US's fascination with the car as an all-important 
symbol of potent consumption and style, there are some who 
actually enjoy driving. Driving, that is, as opposed to operating 
an automobile. There's also a freedom associated with cars; back 
in highschool having a car gave one not just mobility — in itself a 
wonderful sensation — but also privacy away from the prying 
eyes of family and authority. 


3 2 

While the economics of the car would 
seem to doom it in the long run, some 
feel there is much to be gained from 
more legal requirements, all of which 
take money to satisfy. But simply raising 
costs associated with motoring is highly 
discriminatory to poor people who need 
cars for work just as much, or even more 
than, better-off professionals who work 
downtown. Maids, late-shift workers, 
agricultural workers, factory workers, and 
people on call all have transit needs. All 
of the added costs of motoring — insur- 
ance requirements, smog requirements, 
higher gas taxes, etc. — are relatively easily 
absorbed by wealthier people, but pro- 
vide a serious strain on budgets already 
close to breaking. Attempts to make them 
both the scapegoat and the primary object 
of the New Transit System will lead to 
not entirely pleasant clashes. If people are 
forced out of cars, how will they get to 
where they are going? 

Public Transit? 

But what are the alternatives? Public 
transit in the SF Bay Area has been drop- 
ping in popularity for years — fewer peo- 
ple now take public transit than ten years 
ago. That might be related to the endless 
cuts in service and increasing fares which 
have left most transit systems with a rid- 
ership of the poor, the halt and the blind. 
A few systems, such as the so-called Bay 
Area Rapid Transit (BART) system are 
overcrowded, with aging equipment and 
ambitious plans. While estimated costs 
for BART expansions soar (start the bid- 
ding at a few hundred million per few- 
mile extension), a goodly chunk of their 
budgets are absorbed by ... Parking Lots! 
Great way to get people out of their 
cars — build stations in places where peo- 
ple will have to drive to them! 

In fact, systems such as BART are 
doomed from their very conception. 
BART was designed to haul business 
commuters from suburbs into down- 
town centers, and not much else. Even in 
the '60s that didn't describe most users of 
public transit, whose needs were more 
often for more-or-less local transit to 
day-care, schools, laundry, shopping and 
socializing. By the '90s, v^ath many large 
employers moving out to the suburbs, 
the average commuter now goes from 
one suburb to another, completely 
bypassing the "city." And remember, 
transit that serves only commuters is not 


Critical iVIass 

Bike Ride 

public transit — it is essentially a freebie 
for businesses, who might otherwise be 
forced to pay the cost of transporring 

Real public transit is almost nonexis- 
tent. Major changes in routes and fre- 
quencies during non-commute hours 
have a serious effect on any activities con- 
ducted outside the 6-9 and 4-6 hours. 
Despite campaigns urging us not to 
"Drink and Drive," the BART system 
closes as midnight, and most bus service 
in the Bay Area is sporadic or nonexistent 
after 1:00 am (bars and some concerts 
close at 2:00). Of course, there has been 
pressure on BART to provide longer ser- 
vice hours, so BART responded with a 
classic bureaucratic trick. BART promot- 
ed a night-owl "service" v^nth only a few 
central stations open. Unsurprisingly, not 
many people opted to be left miles from 
their destinations at 2:30 in the morning. 
BART has now canceled the program, 
citing "lack of use." 

BART is unusual, not just by grabbing 
a disproportionate chunk of funds, but 
because it's more or less clean, unlike 
many local buses which are grimy, smell 
of urine and have cockroaches. BART is 
also sort of safe, except for the police who 
kill with impunity and generally prove 
their mettle by harassing bicyclists and 
poor people. Local buses, by contrast, 
present both public health and safety 
problems; only occasionally can the 
threat be traced directly to the workers. 

Ride A Bike? 

There's an old joke about a scientist 
who comes roaring out of a lab, shouting 
"I have a solution! Who has a problem?" 
Transit alchemists emerge, waving a 
bike-shaped object and proclaiming a 

solution to transit woes. Is bicycling real- 
ly a significant alternative? Perhaps for 
some whose commutes are limited. 
Clearly, programs promoting bike use 
within a given city or 'burb can help 
these people. Serious programs with spe- 
cific bike paths could go a long ways 
toward promoting bicycling by removing 
the auto threat. But many parts of the 
country are not blessed with as mild 
weather as SF. Snow, heavy rains, chill- 
ing cold and wind, or scorching heat all 
can diminish the appeal — and the safe- 
ty — of bike riding. Nor is everyone capa- 
ble of riding a bike. And there are times 
when a bike just won't cut it (moving 
heavy or large objects, for insunce). 

Of course, many people have to com- 
mute long distances, and bikes could be 
useful to get to/from stations, but only if 
the above conditions apply. If the person 
doesn't need wheels at both ends of the 
commute, there must be safe places to 
leave them. If a bike is needed at both 
ends of the commute, there has to be 
some way of carrying them. Currently 
existing schemes are too impractical to 
work at rush hours (some buses/trains 
allow one or two bikes, if they aren't too 
crowded); others simply ban bikes, 
sometimes at rush hour, sometimes 
entirely). Between bureaucratic slowness 
and redesign of transit vehicles, this 
could take a while. 

A committed effort could make com- 
muting better, whether by bike, foot or 
public transit, and effort should be put 
into it, but the long-term answer lies in 
restructuring cities to reduce the time 
spent in transit. Telecommuting, while 
ardently flogged by its advocates, is not 
practical for many sorts of jobs, and has 
its own problems (isolation with personal 
consequences, "out-of-sight, out-of- 
mind" syndromes in office politics, etc., 
longer hours). As long as business is a 
concentrated sector of life, traffic jams 
and crowds will be required as all these 
"free" people struggle to get to and from 
work "on time." Ultimately it's not how 
you get there, it's where you're going and 
what you're doing. 

— Primitiuo Morales 


3 2 

5 5 

A number of factors con- 
spired to produce the past 
year's dramatic rise in 
"Carjacking." The overall surge 
in anomic violence fueled by the 
LA verdicts, coming on top of a 
decade of increasingly hard times, 
served to "burst the bubble" of 
illusory safety projected by the 
sleek, isolating automobiles. Alas, 
as noted in PW31, cars are actu- 
ally made more vulnerable by the 
presence of their drivers, and the 
rising social awareness of the fact 
served to encourage this newly 
named crime. It is interesting to 
note, however, that there has 
been no corresponding rise in 
"bikejacking," despite their pre- 
sumably greater vulnerability. 

There are a number of reasons for 
this. UnHke cars, bikes are easier to steal 
vacant. Their value is lower, both from a 
cash perspective and in terms of joy-rid- 
ing potential (the main motivation of 
carjackers). Most important, though, is 
that cyclists aren't encumbered by the 
numbing "bubble" of isolation that sur- 
rounds most auto drivers. The operator 
of a car may be (and often is) drunk, lis- 
tening to music, having sex, talking on 
the phone, faxing documents, doing 
their nails and/or hair, shaving, loading a 
gun, or engaging in any number of 
simultaneous activities that distract 
them not only from safely operating 
what is, after all, a potentially deadly 
machine, but even from noticing major 
social upheaval going on around them. 

Cycling is much less forgiving of such 
insanity, and any regular biker knows 
this. You can't cycle when you're 

falling-down drunk, and while it's true 
I've had sex while riding a bike I certain- 
ly wouldn't do this in traffic. 
Experienced cyclists are constantly 
aware of their extreme vulnerability to 
the vagaries of the world (particularly 
the deadly whims of those oblivious, 
enbubbled automobile drivers men- 
tioned above) and the elements, and this 
promotes an environmental sensitivity 
that is the absolute antithesis of the 
"bubble" state of mind which leaves so 
many drivers so vulnerable to carjackers. 

A dramatic example of this phenome- 
non occurred in the trendy Pacific 
Heights neighborhood of San Francisco 
earlier this year. Late at night a lone 
cyclist was stopped by three would-be 
muggers who swarmed out of their car 
to assault him. Instead of fleeing or sub- 
mitting he pulled out a handgun and 
opened fire on his attackers. They fled 
back into their vehicle but one of his 
shots had winged the driver, who passed 
out from blood loss behind the wheel 
and crashed the car into a wall. The dri- 
ver soon died from his injuries; his 
cohorts were thrown from the burning 
auto and were still lying unconscious 
when the police arrived some time later. 

Meanwhile (this is according to the 
live report phoned in to 911 by a tourist 
who was watching it all from a fourth- 
floor apartment across the street) the 
cyclist fled on foot, abandoning his bike. 
Less than 30 seconds later a second car 
drove by, paused as its occupants studied 
the burning vehicle, stopped long 
enough for one of them to stuff the dis- 
carded bike into the trunk, and took off, 
taking with it the only link to the vigi- 
lante cyclist. 

The story made local headlines for a 
week. The police called upon the gun- 
man to turn himself in, assuring him 
that this was the right thing to do and 

suggesting that he'd get off light. 
Perhaps he didn't believe them; maybe 
the gun wasn't registered; in any event 
he never stepped forward, despite his 
status as something of a local folk-hero. 
By an ironic twist his two surviving 
assailants are facing enhanced charges 
for participating in a burglary that 
resulted in a death (even though that 
death was one of their own) — some- 
thing that wouldn't happen if their vic- 
tim were around to take (and 
presumably be cleared on) the 
manslaughter rap. 

I'm not saying that all bikejackings 
end this way, but this story stood out in 
stark contrast to the vast number of 
reported successful carjackings. It cer- 
tainly couldn't have encouraged other 
bikejackings, while the media's caution- 
ary lamentations about carjacking may 
indeed have planted that idea in the 
heads of otherwise innocent (or not so 
innocent) youth. 

Certainly not all bikers are as well 
armed as this Pacific Heights cyclist was. 
But the vast majority of us are every bit 
as alert, constantly scanning our envi- 
ronments for wild drivers, pot-holed 
pavements, demented pedestrians and 
any other threat to a reasonably sane and 
competent bicycle operator. Cycling 
promotes a higher state of consciousness 
and awareness, while automobiles do 
exactly the opposite and encourage an 
aloof, hostile, narcissistic world view. 

Be that as it may, it makes cyclists less 
vulnerable to "jacking" than car drivers. 
It may rain; a moron may fling open a 
car door and scoop you oflfyour bike; a 
MUNI bus may drive you off the road; 
but you probably won't be robbed by a 
gang who want to joyride on your vehi- 

— Kxvazee Wahbitt 


3\jT X HMb. loy^oK.K 

A wiry felon, pale skin varicose with tattoos 

says through broken arch where his incisors 

used to be Pm a Republican 

I believe in the American dollar 

and if I can't make it, I'm gonna shoot it 

intravenously — right here in my arm 

He looks round the car, lights up a cigarette 

jauntily, right here 
in flickery night vein of the Transbay Tube 

Mam Cornford 

San Francisco 

(^ Seattle 


gJ5> Eugene Bol'"— 

(^rfe Sacramento 
'>§) Berkeley 
u^^ Santa Cruz 
' (^ San Luis Obispo 

Ottawa Montreal 


iSk New York 


Havana, Cuba 


A Good Idea Knows No Boundaries 

Critical Mass, the monthly "organized coincidence" 
wherein San Francisco's streets are occupied by 
hundreds of celebrating bicyclists, is alive and 
well — and siring offspring! With independent rides 
springing up all over the place, Critical Mass is 
beginning to look like a large-scale, decentralized 
grassroots movement. The map indicates where 
we've heard of rides going on, mostly under the 
rubric of Critical Mass, but in the case of Havana, 
the city has largely converted to bike use because 
there is no gasoline and few cars. In Rio de 
Janeiro, 7,000+ ride every Tuesday night on the 
Ciclovia along the famous beaches of 
Copacabana and Ipanema, but not 
self-consciously as a "Critical Mass." We're looking 
forward to hearing about more rides as they begin. 

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 


5 7 

Harvey squirmed his 
bulky body around in its 
Business class seat — the 
Agency had stopped paying for 
First Class a long time ago, 
denouncing the practice as both 
costly and conspicuous — to peer 
out the window at the frozen 
wasteland 30,000 feet below. He 
glanced at his Rolex: they'd 
departed from the Workers' 
Islamic Republic of Detroit a lit- 
tle more than three and a half 
hours ago, and should be cross- 
ing the border from the U.S. 
into Pacifica at any minute. 

"Those are the Sierras. We'll land in 
San Francisco soon," offered the frail, 
white-haired hippie woman in beads 
and paisley next to him. Despite his 
cool responses, she'd been making such 
pronouncements (invariably accurate, 
as far as he could tell) for the entire 
flight. It had the unfortunate effect of 

focusing unwanted attention on his 
attempts at discreet snooping. 

Sighing, Harvey pulled out his shoul- 
der bag from under the seat in front of 
him and pulled out his "camera," a 
bulky affair that was significantly more 
powerful and sophisticated than it 
looked. Gone were the days of palm- 
sized Leicas: too conspicuous by cur- 
rent doctrine, not to mention too 
expensive (though this baby cost plenty, 
too). The new theory was that it's better 
to pose openly as a tourist instead of 
trying to "pass" quietly as a spy. 

It was a clear day, and visibility 
through the cold air easily topped 50 
miles. Scanning through the zoom of 
his camera he could just make out what 
he was looking for. The immense car- 
casses of the infamous Pacifican atomic 
planes loomed dimly on their central 
valley airfield. They were still too dis- 
tant to make out clearly and the angle 
out the window was too sharp to permit 
picture-taking, but in a few minutes he 

5 8 


should have an excellent shot of them. 
He began prepping his camera, and 
covertly activating its infrared scanners. A 
hair-fine wire secretly connected the 
enhanced camera to a powerful battery in 
his shoulder bag. 

"Oh, aren't they fascinating?" asked his 
chatty neighbor. He gritted his teeth, 
knowing better than to hope that she was 
talking about something other than the 
planes. "I understand it was some sort of 
political art project by the Balsa collective. 
Don't they look just like Orcas?" she 
commented, using Pacifican slang for the 
enormous aircraft. 

"They're not Orcas?" he couldn't resist 
asking. This was a breach of suggested 
procedure, but he had to find what she 
was talking about. 

"Oh, no. They're papier-mache and 
plywood replicas. I think they coat them 
with plastic laminate. The politics of it 
was confusing (to Harvey, even the sim- 
plest Pacifican politics were incompre- 
hensible) but I think part of the idea was 
to confuse American snoopers. I seem to 
recall some anti-militarist spin, though." 
She lowered her voice to a confidential 

"Actually, I suppose it's possible that 
those ARE real and that Sky Eye (the 
Pacifican air force) persuaded Balsa to 
move the replicas someplace else. Hard to 
say, really. Adds some romantic mystery 
and Zen commentary on Reality to the 
installation, don't you think?" she asked. 

But Harvey had turned back to his 
window to snap his photos that were 
more than photos. He couldn't tell from 

here if they were real or not but the lab 
boys back home would no doubt be able 
to figure it out. He dutifully shot off an 
entire roll of the infrared scans. 

Harvey thought that he was psycholog- 
ically prepared for it, but his first taste of 
Pacifican culture was as unsettling as 
they'd said it would be. After clearing 
Customs and stepping out into the vast- 
ness of the airport he became dizzy with 
confusion. In America you always orient- 
ed yourself in relationship to the Wall, 
the heavily defended security zone that 
separated regulated space from The 
Outside. Inside the Wall you could wear 
a Rolex, carry cash, and walk about with 
little fear that any anti-social types or 
criminals were present; for where would 
they get the clearance necessary to enter 
the risk-free environment? The Outside, 
although laws applied there, were essen- 
tially unpatroUed. You took your chances 
when you went Outside. Many people 
never did. 

Although there were few formal mark- 
ers of the Wall, Americans had developed 
a sixth-sense that told them were it was. 
You were always heading either towards 
the Wall (and towards the Outside) or 
away from the Wall, and towards the core 
of the complex. Here those cues were 
missing. True there was a "wall" of sorts 
behind him, the customs barrier he'd just 
passed: but ahead of him lay only chaos, 
with none of the expected cues of 
Wallness and Outsideness. He felt vul- 
nerable and confused. 

Fortunately his Uncle Merv material- 
ized to rescue him. "Harvey! Good to see 
you! Welcome to Pacifica! Hey, I almost 
didn't recognize you!" he boomed. Uncle 
Merv, who must have been pushing 60, 
was wearing loud shorts, a loose shirt, 
Birkenstocks over black socks and lots of 
gold jewelry tangled on his furry chest. 
His entirely bald head was almost the 
only hairless part of his body. He didn't 
look like most of the pictures Harvey had 
seen of him, taken a couple of decades 
ago, it was true. 

"It's been a long time," Harvey said, 
translating his frankly shocked reaction 
into something polite. "Mom sends her 

"The hell she does. That bitch hates 
me almost as much as I hate her," Merv 
exploded. "But here I am, keeping you 
standing around at the airport. Do you 
want something to eat? Let me take you 
out and brief you on Pacifica." 

"Sure, anything," said Harvey, feeling 
agoraphobic and anxious to get into more 
controlled surroundings. 

They traveled a maze of walkways and 
emerged in the parking garage, which 
sufficiently resembled the service zone of 
a Walled area to put Harvey more at ease. 
His uncle led him to a tiny plastic 
eggshell of a car. There was barely room 
for all of Harvey's luggage in the trunk. 

"Hey, Unk Merv. I though you went 
for big luxury vans. Is this the best you 
can do out here?" he asked. 

"Hell, out here this counts as a big lux- 
ury van. It's only because I'm a salesman 
and a foreign national that I can even get 


5 9 

a private car. Pacificans don't usually own 
more than a share of a car; most of 'em 
use one that belongs to their Dom (slang 
for "domicile," Harvey recalled) or use 
public transportation," Merv answered, 
unplugging his car from the parking 
space's power outlet. 

"Is that free?" Harvey asked, pointing 
to the outlet. 

"Nothing's free," Merv intoned back. 
"But it comes pretty close. It's automati- 
cally charged to the car's account," he 
said, squeezing into the driver's seat. He 
shared the family's mesomorphic tenden- 
cies, and the car barely held the two of 

But it did handle surprisingly well for 
such a toy-like vehicle. Harvey was 
impressed that its speedometer went up 
to 120, until he remembered that Pacifica 
used kilometers rather than miles per 
hour as their standard. Merv assured him 
that it was capable of exciting speeds 
when not restrained by local ordinance. 
"You should see the traffic fly on the San 
Mateo Autobahn. Whew!" 


Sensitive to the phobias of recently 
arrived Americans, Merv took his 
nephew to a comfortably cavern-like 
restaurant with a good view of the Bay. 
The quiet and ritzy environment com- 
bined with the distancing effect of the 
post-card view to produce the warm, 
fuzzy sense of security Americans crave. 
So did the clear distinction between the 
servers and the served, which was con- 
spicuously lacking in most of Pacifica. 

Merv punched in orders from the 
table's console for both them — living for 
a decade in Pacifica had not, apparently, 
eroded the family taste for taking 
charge — and lit up a cigarette after acti- 
vating a powerful vented ashtray. "Most 
places won't let you smoke indoors at 
all," Merv commented. "But this place 
kinda caters to foreign tourists." Harvey 
sniffed the air; despite the efforts of the 
ashtray, he could make out the unmistak- 
able smell of marijuana. 

"Uncle Merv," he asked, "what's that 
your smoking?" 

"Oh, grass. Want some?" he asked, 
proffering the joint. "It's a real good 

"Uh, no. No thanks," Harvey 
answered. He needed to keep his wits 

about him; besides, he was certain to face 
a blood test when he returned. On the 
other hand, he could always claim that 
he'd had to smoke it to keep his cover...; 
no, they'd see right through that after 
questioning him under veridicals. "I for- 
got that it's legal here." 

"Legal, hell; it's a major export and 
source of tax revenue. And it's good stuff, 
too! Better than we got in the old days..." 
Merv broke off to take and hold a deep 
toke while Harvey surveyed the scene 
around him. Some of their fellow patrons 
were stark naked, or close enough to it as 
to make no difference; but the waitrons 
were all closely covered from head to toe. 
In a fancy place in America it would have 
been the other way around. 

"Now, first thing I should warn you 
about is that as soon as they hear you're 
from America everyone's going to assume 
that you're a spy," Merv started, as the 
dope began to loosen his tongue. 

"Uncle Merv!" Harvey protested, a lit- 
tle too loudly. "I'm here as a representa- 
tive of IBM." 

"Sure, Harvey, sure," Merv said. 
"Good old Big Blue. Right. I'm not say- 
ing you ARE a spy, just that everyone 
around here will assume you are. It took 
me years before the locals came around to 
trusting me." 

"But after all. Uncle, isn't every 
American citizen a spy for his country in 
a way? Wouldn't you help out the Agency 
if they asked you to?" 

"Is that what they told you? Did they 
show you my file? I haven't had anything 
to do with those creeps for decades; they 
caught me in an unfortunate youthful 
indiscretion and tried to make me a stool 
pigeon. I'd stay away from them if I was 
you," Merv said darkly. "Not that you 
would have any business with them; you 
work for Big Blue." He winked at his 

Harvey hadn't known there was an 
Agency file on his uncle. He wondered if 
he should ask for a copy, but decided it 
was a bad idea for now. He could try 
looking it up when he got back. 

"No, I don't mess v^nth no politics out 
here," Merv continued. "Business is 
complicated enough with these pesky LP 
types all over the place and parroting that 
damn Academy and its precepts. But it 
does make for a surprisingly congenial 
environment for an old-fashioned 

American-style operator like me, though 
you might not think so." 

"What is this 'academy' anyways?" 
Harvey asked cagily; for that question was 
the main reason of his visit: to find out 
about the academy, and to find out how it 
was vulnerable. "Is it true they run every- 
thing out here?" 

"They might as well," Merv muttered. 
"They've cornered the market on Truth. 
Oy, what a monopoly!" he moaned as he 
rolled his eyes heavenward. "Officially, 
they're the 'Academy for the Research of 
Psychic Phenomena' and they can tell if a 
person is lying." 

"Hell, a good detective with a lie detec- 
tor can do that," scoffed Harvey. "Can 
they read minds?" 

"Any cool-headed guy can outfox a lie 
detector test and you know it," Merv 
answered. "And I don't think they read 
thoughts but they definitely can tell if a 
person is lying to them. Some can get 
deeper than that, but only a few of the big 
macho hot shots. A few say they can see 
the future, but not many people believe 
that." He was scanning the bill that their 
table had just extruded with a quiet buzz. 

"Here, let me pick that up. Uncle 
Merv," said Harvey, reaching across to 
snag the tab. Merv surrendered it with a 

"It's already on my card; that's just the 
receipt. This way it only cost half as 
much as it would have if you paid for it," 
Merv said. 

"Well, that hardly seems fair, to soak 
the Americana touristas like that," Harvey 

"Nah, it's that the extra bookkeeping 
costs and surcharges drive up the total," 
Merv patiently explained. "You were 
probably going to pay with a credit card, 
maybe American Express?" he raised an 
eyebrow at his nephew and Harvey nod- 
ded; his uncle had gotten it down to the 
exact card. The Academy wasn't the only 
one who could read minds. 

"It would make your life a helluva a lot 
easier if you registered for a visitors card 
and use that. It would save you a lot of 
money, too, in the long run," Merv 
intoned, nudging his nephew on the arm. 

"Hell, uncle Merv, Big Blue pays for it 
all anyway," Harvey said. "You were just 
telling me how the Academy guys can 
read minds and tell the future." 

"What they can do is tell if a guy is sin- 



3 2 

cere with close to 100% reliability. It's 
revolutionized local government and 
contracting, especially. They're putting 
lawyers out of business, and I can't think 
of any greater sign of power than that," 
Merv said, raising a glass in salute to the 
Academy. "And they provide a wonderful 
environment for business," he conclud- 
ed. Harvey knew that in Merv's book, 
"being good for business" was the highest 
possible virtue, and he began to wonder 
about his uncle's patriotism. 

"I'm sure there are ways to fake them 
out, too," Harvey said, thinking of the 
neural blockage nets that the Agency was 
experimenting with in an attempt to 
catch up to the Pacificans in Psychic 

"I don't think those electronic 
yarmulkes do much good," Merv sniffed. 
"But who cares? The world is at peace 
and business is good." He led his nephew 
out of the restaurant and onto the wharf, 
a very tame tourist run. English was less 
common around them than Japanese, 
Chinese, Dutch or German. 

"Where are you going to be staying? 
Do you need a place? You could always 
crash with me," Merv offered. 

"They've got a room for me at the 
Company compound, I think," answered 
Harvey, ready to shake loose from his 

uncle. Merv was already getting on his 
nerves. They drove the few blocks to the 
compound, where Harvey's security card 
gained them admittance to the parking 

As they were unpacking the luggage 
from the car onto a cart, Merv hesitated. 
"You know, I got a personal invitation to 
join the Academy shortly after I got here. 
Pretty rare for a foreigner. They seemed 
to think that I had good Psychic poten- 
tial." Harvey agreed with them. 

"I turned 'em down. I'm already a good 
businessman, why should I want to be 
something else?" he shrugged. "But I 
think maybe you might want to check it 
out, if you have any time while your here. 
If I wrote you a letter of recommenda- 
tion, I think they'd take you." 

Harvey was astounded. This is just 
what the Agency would want. But his 
uncle seemed hostile to the Agency. 
"Why should I?" he asked. "Like you, I'm 
pretty good at what I do already." 

"It's just that I think it may do you 
some good. They teach some interesting 
things over there. And frankly, I'm wor- 
ried about you. You don't seem to under- 
stand how dangerous it is for Americans 
out here," Merv answered, slamming the 
trunk of the eggshell car and squeezing 
into the driver's seat. "I'll E-mail the let- 

ter right to the Academy tonight so they 
have it on file just in case you ever decide 
to go." He reached a furry paw out the 
e^hell's window. 

"Take care of yourself," Merv said as 
they shook hands. "Call me any time; but 
I am on the road a lot. Try to stay out of 
trouble," he nagged. 

"Sure thing. Uncle Merv," Harvey 
said, waving at the departing vehicle. His 
luggage cart beeped at him and began to 
lead him to his room. 


Harvey was up by 6:30 am, as dictated 
by the agenda he found waiting for him 
in his room's printout. After prayers he 
went to the Compound gym for the reg- 
ulation workout prescribed for him that 
day. Unfortunately, the log-in terminal 
there had trouble recognizing his code 
although, presumably, it was part of the 
same computer that had printed his 
orders. It took ten minutes of tinkering to 
get in, and by then he didn't have enough 
time to complete his recommended 
number of sets. He hurried out to show- 
er and breakfast, suspecting that a red 
Deficiency flag had been added to his file 
for the incomplete workout. 

He read a dense booklet of Standing 
Orders for Agents Operating in Pacifica 


6 1 

for about an hour, and then reported for 
his official briefing at 10:00. The 
Assistant Director's ofFice was near the 
top of the thirty story high-rise; it was 
Harvey's first foray above the tenth floor. 

The AD (later he would learn there 
was no Director, so the AD was the de 
facto top man) was a J. Edgar Hoover 
lookalike: crewcut, jowly, no-necked and 
pot-bellied. He was smoking a large pipe 
and exhaling mountains of pungent 
smoke. "Ah, Agent Fineberg, come in," 
he wheezed when Harvey appeared in 
the doorway. He motioned to a chair in 
front of his desk, next to one already 
occupied by another Agent. "This is 
Captain Oswald. He'll be directing your 
operations here." The two Agents mut- 
tered pleasantries and shook hands, each 
going for maximum crush effect. 
Oswald's iron grip clearly won. 

"Your mission is to penetrate the inner 
workings of the Academy and to report 
on their technology," the AD intoned. 
"Frankly, they seem to have stolen a 
march on us with this psychic stuff. We 
sent in an application to the Academy 
over your signature this morning and 
they've already faxed back an acceptance." 
He held up a flimsy, densely printed doc- 
ument and handed it to Harvey. It was 
mostly zebra codes and registration 
instructions. "Your uncle must have sent 
in his letter right away." 

"But how did you know about my 
uncle's offer?" Harvey blurted out, bewil- 

"Well, naturally we've monitored your 
progress and your interactions since you 
got here," answered Captain Oswald. 
"For your own safety, mostly." 

"And your uncle's offer certainly 
helped our plan, so we moved on it right 
away," said the AD. "You can start any 
time after you get oriented." He turned 
to Captain Oswald. "Take him away and 
start orienting him!" 

They descended a dozen floors and 
went to Oswald's office, a Spartan work- 
space with soundproof walls. "You're 
gonna need a fair amount of orientation 
before we can send you out," he told 
Harvey. "It's not that we want you to try 
and pass as anything other than 
American — that would be a big hassle — 
but it takes some work to understand the 
Pacificans, even though it's been less than 
20 years since they went independent." 

He shuffled through the desk drawers 
and began tossing pamphlets and 
brochures on top of it: How to Talk to a 
Pacijican, Always Answer a Question 
With a Question, Responding to Licensed 
Psychics. Harvey picked up the last one. 

"Dealing with the LPs can be compli- 
cated," Captain Oswald said, shaking his 
head. "The law here says that any LP who 
detects bad vibes — officially 'Deadly 
Intent' — must report and detain the sus- 
pect. Passersby are supposed to enforce 
their judgments and they usually do." 

"How can they tell who's got these bad 
vibes?" Harvey asked. Oswald's face 

"The law here says that any 

Licensed Psychic who detects 

bad vibes must report and 

detain the suspect" 

"How can they tell who^s 

got these bad vibes?" 

Harvey asked. 

"Probably they can% 

really, and if s just an 

excuse for them to arrest 

anyone they want to," 

"Probably they can't, really, and it's just 
an excuse for them to arrest anyone they 
want to," he answered. He held up a 
metallic brassard, iridescent with holo- 
gramic patterns and shaped like a five- 
pointed sheriffs badge except that the 
fifth limb pointed down instead of up. 
"This is their ID; watch out for anyone 
wearing one of these." He tossed it back 
in a drawer and turned to his desk con- 
sole. After a few minutes the office print- 
out emitted three pages of orientation 
seminars for the next week. 

Harvey glanced through it randomly as 

he wandered away from the Captain's 
office. It included things like How to Eat 
with Chopsticks, Local Satanism and 
"Wicca," Blocking Psychic Investigations, 
and Legal Rights of Foreign Nationals in 
Pacijica. He glanced at his watch and 
jumped; he was going to be late for the 
noon indoctrination film! He scurried to 
the elevator, happy to be in a controlled, 
American environment and wondering 
what it would be like to wander about in 
the unregulated chaos of Pacifica. 


A week later he was ready for his first 
foray into unbridled Pacifica. Despite 
indoctrination he couldn't help feeling 
that he was going Outside, with all its 
attendant risks and anxieties. He would 
be escorted by Captain Oswald — or 
"Fred" as he must call him always 
Outside (but never Inside) — and a hired 
Pacifican tour guide, Rosie. "Fred" 
noticed his reaction to his first sight of 
the disheveled, wild haired Latina 
woman. "It's not easy to get Pacificans we 
can trust to do this kind of work," Fred 
murmured as they went out the security 
doors. "We have to take what we can get." 

Rosie greeted them distantly, as though 
she had trouble focusing on them and 
her mind was on other things. "Hi, Fred. 
Coming home with me today?" 

"Yes, Rosie!" Fred boomed with false 
heartiness. "This is Harvey. He'll be 
coming along too, if that's OK." 

"Sure, sure. Pay double?" she asked, 
freezing for a moment; she relaxed when 
Fred nodded and handed her a filmy doc- 
ument with a magnetic strip along the 
bottom. She stuffed it in her pouch with- 
out looking at it, and silently began to 
shuffle off to the Outside. Fred shrugged 
and started after her, with Harvey in tow. 

Immediately outside the IBM com- 
pound they caught an electric trolley, 
clearly based on the historic cable cars but 
powered by overhead wires instead of 
underground cables. Like a cable car it 
had outside seating, which they promptly 
occupied. Harvey looked around to see 
how you paid: Rosie methodically sorted 
through a bundle of tags on a chain 
around her neck and patiently ran one 
over a sensor on her seat handle two or 
three times until it beeped. Fred was run- 
ning a standard credit card over his 
meter, which also beeped. He handed 


Harvey an envelope containing a number 
of cards with magnetic strips and a pair of 
bright alloy tags. 

"Use the red and yellow tag for all 
types of transit, and the blue and green 
tag for eating," Fred explained as Harvey 
sorted through the items. "These are 
standard tourist tags; they'll get reported 
back to the hotel. Locals' tags are auto- 
matically charged against their Dom." 

"What's to keep you from cheating and 
not paying?" he asked, looking around in 
vain for a conductor other than the tram's 

"Darned if I know," Fred answered. 
"Maybe the driver's a psychic and can 
detect cheaters. Anyway it works out 
pretty cheap so it's hardly worth stealing. 
Some say that the Doms want to show a 
high rate of public transit use as confir- 
mation that they're not using high- 
impact transport." He shru^ed to show 
his disdain for such explanations. 

They rode majestically up Market 
Street. The trolleys ran down the center 
of the broad street, silent except for the 
quiet wanging of their overhead wires 
and the enthusiastic clanging of their 
bells. One-way bicycle lanes, crowded 
with heavily loaded cargo trikes as well as 
commuters, ran on either side of the 
tracks. A single lane of auto trafFic was 
allowed between the bikes and the side- 
walk, occupied solely by smallish electric 

"Have they outlawed internal combus- 
tion engines out here?" Harvey asked 

"They might as well have. Each neigh- 
borhood sets its own standards for what 
vehicles they allow. Out in the country 
old-fashioned cars are still used, but most 
cities won't allow them at all," Fred 
answered. "I understand that the worst 
riots in Pacifica's history happened when 
the LA city council voted to ban gas-pow- 
ered cars." 

At Van Ness the trolley lurched around 
a sharp curve and they headed due south 
on Mission Street, losing the lanes of 
auto traffic in the process. Tall sentry 
palms lined the street on either side and 
the trolley made more frequent stops. 
After a few blocks of this slower progress 
they dismounted outside a large red brick 
building, unmistakably built as a National 
Guard armory at the turn of the century. 

"This is my Dom," said Rosie, speak- 

ing for the first time since they left the 
compound. She shuffled across the bike 
lanes without concern, although both 
Fred and Harvey had trouble judging the 
gaps between the bikes and had to scurry 
to avoid them. The wide sidewalk was 
lined with small booths, stands and tents 
propped against the walls of the armory. 
There were bins of tropical produce and 
bundles of bright flowers; some hawked 
trinkets and artwork, others offered 
skewers aromatically roasting over bra- 
ziers. Malls inside the Wall in America 

Her Name Is Dignity 

photo by D.S. Black 

usually had pepsin or peppermint scented 
air pumped in; that comforting smell 
now seemed harsh and chemical com- 
pared to the fragrance of this Pacifican 

They walked slowly past these displays 
and into a grand portal. Overhead a 
mosaic read "Creativity Explored 
Domestic Dwelling." A particularly 
shabby old man, his face a net of wrin- 
kles, glommed onto them as they 
entered, apparently trying to sniff them. 
Fred shied away when the old man 

snarled at him, and Harvey, assuming he 
was a beggar, fished a plastic Pacifican 
coin out of his pocket and handed it to 
the man. He stared at it and then at 
Harvey blankly for a moment, and then 
dropped it like a hot coal, muttering as 
he turned away. 

Rosie snickered. "I don't think he liked 
you guys," she said. They entered a volu- 
minous room with low couches and 
chairs scattered randomly about and 
brightly colored tapestries on the walls. It 
was mostly empty, but four vacant- eyed 
people sat in a ring on a large rug, bob- 
bing and swaying. 

"Are they praying?" Harvey asked. 
Rosie stopped short at the question, 
forehead knotted in concentration. 
"Maybe," she answered slowly. "Let's 
ask the consultant." 

The consultant turned out to be a 
large, old maternal woman sitting at a low 
table with papers in front of her. She 
pursed her lips in distaste when she saw 
Rosie's guests. "Oh, is today one of your 
visitor days, Rosie?" she asked as their 
guide handed her the pay sheet Fred had 
given her earlier. The consultant put it on 
top of a stack before her but made no 
effort to introduce herself to Fred and 

"Mary, are the Cats praying?" Rosie 
asked her. 

"I never thought of it that way before," 
Mary answered. "Maybe they are." She 
looked Fred and Harvey over. "You must 
be some of Rosie's American tourists. 
Welcome to Pacifica," she said, without 

"So, are the Cats praying?" Harvey 
asked, to Fred's irritation. 

"The Cats are catatonics and they seem 
to enjoy doing that," Mary answered. 
"Most of the residents here are Mis or 
DDs," she said. Seeing the lack of com- 
prehension in his face she added "That's 
Mentally 111 or Developmentally Delayed. 
In America most of these people would 
be locked up in institutions instead of liv- 
ing free lives. I can't understand why; it 
must cost a fortune." 

"Well, most ... Mis" (Harvey had 
almost said "feebs," the common 
American term) "can't really look after 
themselves, can they?" 

"I don't know about that. Rosie makes 
more as a tour guide than I do as a con- 
sultant," she said, glancing at the form 


3 2 

6 3 

Rosie had just handed in. "Though not as 
much as the residents who are LPs — a 
surprising number of our residents are 
LPs," she added. "They all do pretty well 
as long as they have a consultant like me 
around to remind them when to take 
their meds. Which reminds me, I'm a 
housekeeping consultant, and not a tour 
guide, so if you'll just excuse me?" she 
asked, and turned her back on them. 
Rosie motioned them over and led them 

"You're lucky Mary's on today. She's 
real friendly. Most of the consultants 
won't even talk to Americans." Her face 
clouded. "And some of the residents said 
I shouldn't even be allowed to bring you 
guys around. But not too many, and 
everyone likes the credit enhancements I 
earn for the Dom," she concluded, 
almost cheerfully. 

She led them through a door and into a 
vast kitchen. A middle-aged Asian man 
working at an immense pile of vegetables 
was its only occupant. "Hi, Art," Rosie 
called. Art just scowled and chopped a 
turnip in half with an immense cleaver, 
rather more forcefully than necessary, 
Harvey thought. "Art's our primary 
cooking consultant. We cook most of our 
own food, but we like having Art and his 
helpers when we can," she confided. 

They went up another flight of stairs 
and into a broad airy corridor, lined 
with cubicles and clusters of rooms. 
Rosie paused before one and pushed 
aside the bead curtain to show them 
inside. "This is my room," she said, but 
didn't elaborate or show them inside; 
Harvey got only a brief glimpse of a 
futon, many plants and elaborate 
macrame wall hangings. 

After touring the quiet complex — 
workrooms, bathrooms, pool, auditori- 
um, roof-top garden — for an hour Rosie 
led them back to the grand portal. "You 
better go before most of my neighbors 
get home. They don't like guests," she 

Fred led him a couple blocks south and 
then turned west, up 16th Street. "The 
academy's just a couple blocks this way," 
Fred explained. Harvey followed him in a 
daze. Inside, in America, most people 
were anglos, or if not were grouped 
together somewhat apart. Here there was 
a mix so broad that Harvey couldn't 
begin to classify it. There were no visible 

policemen around; no cars; no malls. He 
couldn't tell if people eating at clusters of 
tables on the sidewalk were at restaurants 
or just outside their own homes. The 
smell of the cookfires was making him 
hungry, reminding him that he'd been 
warned to avoid Pacifican food. 

"It's like visiting a tropical country," 
Captain Oswald — Fred — had explained. 
"Lot's of weird bugs you can pick up 
from the food and especially the water." 

That's why his backpack was weighted 
down with a half-gallon of bottled water 
and five pounds of processed food bars 
and high-quality — relatively speaking — 
MREs (Meals Ready to Eat). The 
thought of those tasteless treats paled in 
contrast to the odors of fresh-cooked 
food currently assailing him. 

There were no visible 
policemen around, no 

cars, no malls. He 
couldn't tell if people 
eating at clusters of 
tables on the sidewalk 
were at restaurants or 
just outside their own 
homes. The smell of 

the cookfires was 
making him hungry, 
reminding him that 
he'd been warned to 
avoid Pacifican food. 

Most of the buildings they passed pre- 
sented a blank wall to the street, and 
apparently were oriented around internal 
courtyards. Peeking in the occasional 
entryway Harvey glimpsed secluded 
patios heavy with foliage, wind chimes 
and fountains as well as drying laundry 
and piles of junk. 

The Academy was a rococo wedding 
cake of a cathedral. "Used to be a 
church," Fred muttered. "Nationalized 
like the rest of the Catholic Church's 

stuff back in '99," he added. "They didn't 
even let them keep that monument," he 
said, pointing to a small white adobe next 
to the Academy. "Oldest building in the 
city, they say." 

As they mounted the steps a wild-eyed 
woman grabbed Harvey's sleeve. He 
jumped but relaxed when he spotted her 
LP brassard. "Your clothes smell bad," 
she confided. "But you smell OK. Your 
buddy there;" she continued in a confi- 
dential whisper, jerking her head at Fred, 
"He stinks all over. I couldn't let him in." 
Fred backed a couple of steps down; 
Harvey thought he saw him discretely 
crossing himself. 

Before Harvey could figure out what to 
do or say a young man with dark hair ran 
down the stairs to his side. "You must be 
new here," he said, smiling. "Thanks, 
Bea. I'll look after him now," he said to 
the LP, leading Harvey up the stairs by 
the arm. He looked back helplessly at 
Fred, who nodded and slowly turned 
away. It was like the first day of school, 
when he suddenly realized his mother 
was going to leave him alone in a strange 

"Is that your security guard?" Harvey 
asked. "She couldn't stop an armed 

"Now, where would an 'intruder' get a 
gun in Pacifica?" he asked. "And she 
would spot a flamer like that from a block 
away. By the way, I'm Ramon. I'm a new 
student here myself" 

"Harvey Feinberg," he answered, offer- 
ing his hand. To his surprise Ramon did- 
n't go for the obligatory "crush"; his 
handshake was soft, almost a caress. 

"Anyway, we mostly don't overwhelm 
our enemies," Ramon continued. "We try 
to subvert them instead," he said with a 
bold smile. 

"But you can't subvert everyone," 
Harvey observed, defensively. 

"Well, those we can't, usually leave. Or 
go crazy," Ramon said, throwing a signif- 
icant glance over his shoulder at Fred's 
departing figure. He looked at Harvey 
with intense eyes for a long moment. 
"But I think you'll do just fine here." 

Harvey followed him inside, and — 
with or without the benefit of psychic 
insight — knew for sure that he would 
never be the same. 

— Michael C. Botkin 


3 2 


Tech Talk: 
Mediamatic and Wired 

Since Processed World's inception over a 
decade ago, we have taken our roots in the 
automated office as a permanent excuse to 
concern ourselves with questions of technol- 
ogy and work, generally taking our angle as 
the "underside of the information age." As 
long-time readers know, our primary efforts 
have gone toward exposing the sordid reali- 
ties of work, as told by those who do it, in 
Tales of Toil, letters, and "fiction." This has 
inevitably reduced and limited our explo- 
rations of technology questions, but happily, a 
couple of new(er) magazines are, taken 
together, doing a great job of exploring the 
changes in psychology, public space, sociabili- 
ty, political economy, art and literature 
resulting from the ever-evolving relationship 
of humanity to its techno-sphere. 

A couple of years ago Mondo 2000 sprang 
forth from a curious agglomeration of aging 
hippies, computer nerds, psychedelic drug 
aficionados, and artists to gain a brief reputa- 
tion as a cutting edge rag. Its intellectual 
flabbiness and self-satisfied hubris soon over- 
whelmed its claims to be a new avant-garde, 
leaving the US magazine-scape stuck between 
glossy news magazines pumping out instantly 
nostalgic looks at an already vanishing world, 
and an unprecedented explosion of self-pro- 
duced 'zines so finely tuned to the sensibili- 
ties of their makers that it made the term 
"narrowcasting" seem broad by comparison. 

Local billboards in '92 began promising a 
new magazine anachronistically called Wired, 
whose masthead echoed early '80s punk aes- 
thetics while its highly professional staff gave 
the latest versions of DTP tech a serious 
workout inside. Amidst a heavy load of ads 
for software and hardware, liquor and music, 
come the telltale "news" reports generated 
from the endless stream of corporate press 

releases and sample products sent to willing 
reviewers. Wired is a completely commercial 
magazine with no political pretensions (other 
than perhaps that old civil libertarian line), 
but it manages to provide a lot of useful news 
and info anyway. It actually delivers some- 
thing like a weather report on the New 
Media Universe, a service that Mor)do implied 
but never delivered. Along with intelligent 
reviews of multimedia, interactive music, 
books, etc, a good deal of the magazine is 
dedicated to serious feature articles. One 
cover story was on the CypherPhreaks cam- 
paigning for public key encryption as an anti- 
dote to the Panopticon/Big Brother 
tendencies of the new information technolo- 
gy. Another article, much shorter and tucked 
in the middle of the magazine, informatively 
introduced the concept of "infrastructure 
wars," an idea largely embodied in the age- 
old ability to sabotage production at any 
worksite. In the piece, called "Soft Kill" by 
Peter Black, various recent events like the 
sabotaging of Iraqi war computers and the 
World Trade Center bombing's effect on 
world financial markets are used to show 
how vulnerable this shiny new way of life 
really is. A handy list of the top ten targets in 
the US is worth reprinting: 

1 Culpepper Switch — in Culpepper, Virginia, 
this electronic switch handles all federal funds 
transfers and transactions. 

2 Alaska Pipeline — carries ten percent of 
domestic oil for the US. 

3 Electronic Switching Systems (ESS) — man- 
ages all telephones. 

4 Internet — the communications backbone 
of science and industry. 

5 Time Distribution System — all major sys- 
tems depend upon accurate time. 

6 Panama Canal — still immensely important 
in the transport of oil and goods. 

7 Worldwide Military Command and 
Control System (WWMCCS) — particularly 
susceptible to soft attack. 

8 Blue Cube — just off Hwy 101 near Moffet 
Field in Mountain View, California, this is the 

Pacific clearing house for satellite reconnais- 

9 Malaccan Straits, Singapore — the maritime 
link between Europe-Arabia and the Western 

10 National Photographic Interpretation 
Center (NPIC) — a ten-minute walk from the 
US capitol, this is the repository and process- 
ing facility for all of the government's photo- 
graphic intelligence. 

Wired gets extra credit for busting out of 
the US-centric obsession favored by technol- 
ogy writers. A great article by the ubiquitous 
Jeff Greenwald covers the explosion of dish- 
wallas in India. India has become a major pro- 
ducer of high-tech workers so it figures that 
the government's attempts to limit TV broad- 
casting to just a few state-owned channels 
would be subverted by an increasingly tech- 
no-sawy public. Thousands of small cable dis- 
tributors have sprung up across the country, 
as individual entrepreneurs purchase a satel- 
lite dish and a VCR, download shows from 
the sky and broadcast them to their local 
network (usually a dozen to a couple of hun- 
dred TVs all wired to the same VCR, strung 
loosely over roofs and across corridors). 

Inside stories on Silicon Valley corporate 
intrigue, profiles of major players, and so on, 
ensure Wired an audience among the upscale 
tech workers who can afford to keep an 
expensive product like this afloat. If you are 
concerned with that world from within or 
without, you'll want to check out Wired. 

Not beholden to ad revenue or a market- 
oriented philosophy, the English-Dutch maga- 
zine Mediamatic from Amsterdam is easily the 
most sophisticated, theoretically intelligent, 
well-written, humorous, provocative and 
best-designed effort addressing the changing 
media universe. Published four times a year 
with funding from the Dutch Ministry of 
Culture and some private foundation money, 
Volume 6 (1991-92) featured a special issue 
on the Ear and Sound with articles on the his- 
tory and practice of Amsterdam's radio 
pirates, the use of pillows in art, several 
pieces on cinema and sound, and a host of 
book reviews. A special double issue was 
dedicated to Old Media, in which they sheep- 
ishly admit that their expectation of a renais- 


6 5 

sance of new uses of old media was probably 
unfounded. A series of short essays by solicit- 
ed artists indicates the infinitude of attitudes 
and uses creative minds bring to the interface 
of art and technology. Several essays take up 
the problems of the museum and fine art in a 
world increasingly shaped by the new media 
and the implied existence of the "docuverse," 
the electronically universalized body of 
human creation. 

Their latest, the "I/O" issue, takes a solid 
step into the current discussions around new 
media. In pondering the difficult category of 
"interactivity" I found myself stuck until I read 
a piece on reconceptualizing artificial intelli- 
gence (Al) by Avon Huxor. Cautiously assess- 
ing his own proposed analogy between 
"artificial intelligence" and writing, he writes 
"the techniques of Al have the potential to be 
employed as a Typography of Thought, allow- 
ing the author to "write down" their 
thoughts... A Running Text (so-called because 
they are texts that can be run like computer 
programs) system should represent existing 
practice — conventional text — to carry it 
through initial development. The output from 
the executable processes should be tied to, 
and interpret, everyday text. Once conven- 
tionalized, Running Texts will emerge with 
their own expressive form — a poetics of rea- 

"By viewing Al as a medium to be used by 
people, Al may achieve that final elusive goal. 
If a technology can truly infect its frequent 
users, artificial intelligence could arise. We 
would be that artificial intelligence, our cogni- 
tive apparatus restructured through the use 
of this technology.... We should also be con- 
cerned with the pressure to 
would be a tragedy to see the primacy of 
individual thought diminished.... We must 

return authority, authorship, to the human 
who creates such Texts, and who can then be 
called to account." 

Mediamatic I /O also includes serious arti- 
cles on mimetic aesthetics, word processing, 
the user interface, and excellent book 
reviews on virtual reality and hypertext. 
Their sardonic self-conscious Euro-centric 
view is nicely combined with the techno- 
theme in the introduction: "Hardware, soft- 
ware and wetware are the three forms which 
the human/machine can take in the New 
World Order... The role of Europe is to 
deliver the necessary cultural products for 
shipment. Wetware's task is to cough up cul- 
ture, which will be run on Japanese hardware 
with the help of American software. In this 
international division of labor, what is expect- 
ed of Europe is that she properly administer 
the legacy of Bach and Beethoven, maintain 
the paintings of Rembrandt and Van Gogh, 
and extend the Shakespeare-through-Beckett 
theatre tradition into the future." Mediamatic 
while occasionally dense and academic, most- 
ly reads very clearly with a refreshingly open 
intellectuality, fluidly combining coverage of 
issues across many disciplines and philoso- 
phies. It is a special treat, too, because it is 
beautifully designed and produced. With wit 
and whimsy, the designers pull the editorial 
eclecticism together into a visually intriguing, 
but easy to read magazine. Check it out! 

— Chris Carlsson 

Stichting Mediamatic Wired 

Postbus 17490 PO Box 191826 

1 00 1 JL Amsterdam San Francisco, CA 94 1 1 9 

Netherlands US 

surface sub $30/4 issues $20/6 issues 

On the Job Action 

A recent trip to a Vegas gun emporium 
turned up a curious book: Fighting Bacl< by 
Victor Santoro ( 1 982, Desert Publications, 
Cornville Az, 86325, ISBN 0-87947-200-6; try 
Loompanics). Rooted in the sub-genre of 
"revenge" literature (e.g. the eponymous 
George Hayduke's books such as "Getting 
Even," etc.). This text, however, is centered 
on the work world. 

The first few chapters are the sensible 
advice you expect from a guidance counselor. 
The first chapter is "Hold Your Temper," 
which urges restraint in the face of bossly 
provocation. Santoro outlines various scenar- 
ios which cause discontent in workers (unfair 
treatment, lies, companies being sold, etc), 
often illustrated with short examples. His 
chapter on "The Law" gives reasons not to 
believe that satisfaction can be had from legal 
recourses (tissue-thin labor laws, civil torts 
that take years to go anywhere, etc). He out- 
lines a few ways to use the law against a boss, 
although most are applicable only if you know 
of some illegal actions, or if the person is 
already in the legal process. Other chapters 
deliver sensible (but not earth-shaking) advice 
on finding out who you really work for, and 
company spies. 

An excellent chapter is "Assessing Your 
Boss's Vulnerability," which presents a slightly 
tongue-in-cheek "Santoro Scale" for assessing 
a company (or department) in terms of sus- 
ceptibility to sabotage. The scale has sections, 
the first of which, "The Company," applies to 
the organization itself He assigns points to 
rate such categories as "Financial Position," 
"Technical Secrets," "Physical Plant," 


"Communications" (lots of mail? to where? 
lots of phone orders?, etc), "Transportation" 
("Company Vehicles. Score one point if the 
company has its own delivery trucks and 
another if it has executive cars."), 
"Personnel," "Suppliers" and "Organization." 
The second section, "The Boss," rates the 
vulnerability of the person in charge based on 
their position (and status) in the company, 
competence, home life, travel and personal 
habits. The scales indicate relative vulnerabili- 
ties and how to exploit them. 

He then gets to the meat of the matter in 
"Methods of Attack," which outlines much of 
the rest of book. He examines physical sabo- 
tage, including attacks on computer data and 
the like. My favorites are methods which uti- 
lize organizational weaknesses, or the manipu- 
lation of information. Some work best for 
people with the ability to change what is being 
ordered, when, or from whom. Others are 
applicable to those at the bottom of the orga- 
nizational hierarchy, such as file clerks who can 
misfile, misdirect, or lose papers which won't 
be needed until long after their departure. 

My favorite example is that of Alfonso P., a 
stockboy, who was treated like dirt by the 
manager of the supermarket where he 
worked. After finding a new job, he launched 
his plan: 

Pan of his job was to place price labels on 
items before putting them on the shelves. He 
purposely priced every item lower ^an the sched- 
uled price as he restocked the shelves, often giv- 
ing the customer a 'discount' of up to fifty 
percent As the profit margin for a supermarket 
varies from one to six percent, depending on how 
you do your accounting and what you're trying to 
prove, Alfonso insured that the supermarket 

operated in the red for a while, and was able to 
under price a lot of items in two weeks. [...] 

Alfonso made excellent use of the multiplier 
effect To do so required no extra effort on his 
part He just had to go through the motions of 
his job as he did every day. All he did was place 
lower prices on the items. Yet by doing so he 
caused t/ie checkers to collect less money than 
they would have otherwise. He caused customers 
to walk out of the store with the goods at bargain 
rates, and indirectly, caused a temporary increase 
in the store's business, for some of the customers, 
when they noticed the low prices, 'told a friend.' 
This generated more traffic, selling more goods at 
the lower prices, requiring more restocking and 
more opportunity to put down the prices. Note 
that the prices were low enough to offset any 
additional profits caused by the increase in busi- 
ness. The increased business just caused the 
supermarket to lose more money. 

"Alfonso's method even had a very desirable 
'fail-safe' feature. If he had been caught at it, 
what could the manager have done? He could 
have fired him on ^e spot, which would have 
been of no consequence, but then how would he 
have gone about repairing the damage? Would 
he have examined every item on the shelves? The 
average supermarket carries between five and 
ten thousand items, and comparing the prices on 
every one to a master list takes ^me. The man- 
ager would not have been able to close the store 
for two or three days while he did this, so he 
would have had to let the damage run its course. 
Alfonso made sure that the effects would be as 
long-lasting as possible by making sure that the 
shelves were chock-full before he left 

This particular method may not work in 

every store, as those with a computerized list 

and scanners, for instance, couldn't ordinarily 

be affected by a stock clerk, but a "program- 

mer" (a data-entry clerk) could do so. This 
example illustrates effective ways of doing 
harm without anything so tacky as violence. 

Some tactics are less generalizable; going to 
work for a competitor, is, as Santoro admits, 
a useful method of revenge only for people 
who have specialized knowledge or contacts; 
this isn't likely to help temps, who don't have 
such knowledge. Some are only useful in limit- 
ed circumstances — rumors and attacks on the 
reputation of a company, for instance. 

There is some conservative spoor here 
(obligatory complaints about "reverse dis- 
crimination", a fascination with starting busi- 
nesses, etc), but overall this is a well written 
and straight-forward work on a subject many 
people are uncomfortable with. True, 
Santoro can't dispense wisdom about when 
to use these tactics, which are designed to 
cause harm, but such criticisms can be made 
about virtually any tactic of work-place resis- 
tance. While there is an emphasis on the indi- 
vidual's revenge here, that is also a reflection 
of reality for most workers. We may (or may 
not) be fired collectively, but the burden of 
unemployment and finding new work is car- 
ried by individuals, as is the bulk of abuse in 
the modern workplace. Nor is there any rea- 
son why such tactics and more) can't be inte- 
grated with a more collective approach. 

We may be weak compared to the hon- 
chos, but we're not powerless. We don't 
have to take the insults, abuse and degrada- 
tion without resistance. Yes, collective mea- 
sures are better (both practically and 
philosophically), but individual responses can 
at least salvage one's pride, and, taken togeth- 
er, wear down the bosses and their minions. 

Check it out. 3 'A stars. 

Primitivo Morales 


6 7 

The Job Thing 

The role of the middle-aged bohemian 
outcast isn't just for men anymore. Of 
course, it never was, but the massive indiffer- 
ence with which dominant media culture has 
greeted the development of women as indi- 
viduals has relegated such role models to his- 
tory's memory hole. And in the world of 
underground comics, dominated by male 
artists who largely uphold "traditional" (read: 
power imbalanced) sex roles, such as R. 
Crumb and Art Spiegelman, this has often 
been true also. However, last year's publica- 
tion of the excellent Twisted Sisters, an anthol- 
ogy of women comic artists, raised the 
prominence of women undergrounders. Most 
of the artists in the book are in their 40s, and 
many of them had been drawing comics for 
decades, largely in feminist comics like Tits 
and Clits and Wimmins Comix. 

One of the artists featured in Twisted 
Sisters, Carol Tyler, has released a book 
called The Job Tliir)g: Stories About Shitty jobs. 
While other autobiographical comics such as 
Harvey Pekar's Americar) Splendor [See PW 
26/27] and Seth's Palookaville have comment- 
ed richly on the fugue state suffered by sensi- 
tive people in absurd jobs, The job Thing stirs 
the issues of motherhood, sexism, and female 
economic independence into the stew. 

No by-the-leftist-numbers polemic, this 
book. Tyler's deceptively crude drawing style 
depicts a wealth of cruelty, injustice, and pet- 
tiness with childlike candor and absurdist 
humor. Throughout the book, the artist 
depicts herself as first a harried, bumbling, 
but hopeful youth, then as a harried, disillu- 
sioned, but hopeful adult. And unlike comic 
artists such as Joe Matt and Dori Seda, she 
does not depict herself as more attractive 
than she is. Rather, she is shown throughout 
as a worn-at-the-seams kind of gal, drawn 
carelessly as if it does not really matter how 
she looks. 

Tyler lists her resume as: "Clerk, map 
technician for zoning dept., domestic engi- 
neer, drywaller, archivist, tofu presser for a 
guru who drinks his own piss, speedy floral 
delivery to funeral parlors, lumber sorter, 
bartendress, medical illustrator, popcorn girl 
at the show, model, stevedore..." In mapping 
her job history and incidentally, her geo- 
graphical mobility and relationship upheavals, 
she sends a message that the female searcher 
exists past the age jof 2 1 . Throughout the 
book, in fact, Tyler never shies away from the 

harsh realities women face in the personal 
and public realms. One story depicts her 
escape from Nashville (drawn as a large gui- 
tar) and a philandering boyfriend to a "nice 
average college town," where she sells pulp 
romances and how-to books until anxiety- 
induced insomnia and bad hamburger get her 
fired. In another story, Tyler places her new 
baby in daycare to take a job teaching mural- 
painting to obnoxious kids. In the process, 
she encounters much petty egomania and 
cliqueishness. Pointing herself out to an 
observer, she says: "I'm easy to spot: the 
naked torso with the milky boobs." The 
strength of The job Thing, besides the excel- 
lence of the storytelling, is Tyler's eye for 
absurd, queasy details. A catalogue of backbit- 
ing comments she receives at work, for 
instance, includes this bon mot: "Besides, I 
don't have any use for a person who doesn't 
like chocolate." If you're looking for a role 
model in quiet rebellion whose acid wit goes 
down like chocolate pudding, put away those 
Charles Bukowski books, go to your local 
comic store, and get The job Thing. 

— Linda Johnson 

graphic b/ Iguana Mente 


3 2 


The gold digger in the ravines of the mountains is as much a gambler as his fellow 

in the sabons of San Francisco. What difference does it make whether you shake 

dirt or shake dice? If you win, society is the loser. The gold digger is the enemy of 

the honest laborer, whatever checks and compensations there may be. 

Thoreau, "Life Without Principle," 1863 

what of the people who don't have what I have?/they're victims of my leisure/to 
fail is to be a victim/to be a victim of my choice. 

Minutemen, "Maybe Partying Will Help," 1984 

The wager: At times it's important 
to stake something you value in 
the hope of gaining some 
advantage. There's nothing about 
gsimhlmg per se that's deviant, but while 
recreational gambling is seen by most as 
harmless social fun, the professional 
gambler is deemed a public enemy; a 
degenerate who gets his or her greatest 
thrills out of "making" money. Oil 
exploration, playing the stock market, 
and investing in real estate, high-tech, or 
"developing" countries, though all 
involve risk, are different from gambling 
because these forms of risk-taking are 
categorized as honest investments that 
stimulate economic life; successful 
investors create jobs at the same time 
that they increase their personal wealth. 
The high rollers are thus society's 
benefactors, and though they're 

risk-takers they're also the system's 
staunchest conservatives since they enjoy the 

rules of the game. 
The capitalist ideology that condemns the 
activities and outlook of the confidence man or 
gambler extols the same traits in the 
individualist/entrepreneur: the self-made man. 
The confidence man is detestable because his 
success is predicated on ripping off the lazy 
folks who either are trying to escape the dead- 
end life that profits the reputable entrepreneur, 
or are seeking a fleeting moment of luxury. 
Suckers in the making are taught early on that 
it's one thing to submit daily to the demands 
and interests of the enterprising individual 
(corporations are people, too), and another to 
let oneself be taken in by a sharper. Only the 
latter is the mark of the fool. 
So they say. This social distinction between the con 
artist/businessman, which today allows retired military 
generals and CEOs to write best-sellers and be presented 
as wise and trustworthy, wasn't always so conveniently 
drawn. For example, Edward Pendleton, a 19th-century 
con man who owned the "Hall of the Bleeding Heart" 
casino in DC, was married to the daughter of Robert 
Mills, a wealthy architect involved in, among other 


projects, the construction of the 
Washington Monument. The funerals of 
both Pendleton and his wife were attend- 
ed by the latter's devoted friend, President 
Buchanan. Lobbyists regularly patronized 
The Hall, not to gamble, but to help out 
cash-strapped legislators in exchange for 
favors. These special interests differed 
from those regularly attacked by today's 
corporate media for undermining the 
democratic process, since there was no 
organized labor, homosexuals were closet- 
ed, and women and minorities weren't 
allowed to vote. Of course, then and now, 
it's business as usual. 

The business of gambling goes back to 
this country's founding: "A scheme to 

help finance the Continental Congress in 
1776 by means of a country-wide lottery 
was abandoned only because of the diffi- 
culty of selling tickets at that troubled 
time." [Low Life, Luc Sante, Vintage, 
1991, p. 153] The Louisiana Purchase not 
only opened up America to the com- 
merce lauded by standard American 
History books, it also afforded vast hori- 
zons upon which New Orleans gambling 
entrepreneurs could ply their crafts and 
stalk their prey in Mobile, up the 
Mississippi, and eventually along the 
Atlantic seaboard. It was the heyday of 
free trade. These entrepreneurs didn't 
necessarily introduce gambling to new 
communities, since relatively small-scale 

Mea Culpa, Mes Culpa, Mes MINIMA Culpa! 


The Magazine of fine Whines 

114^ Blaming Others: A Way of Life 
11^ Childish Survivors of Adulf hood 

iiii^ Those Olher Drivers: 
How Can They Drii/e Like Thai?!? 


How fo Blame Your Wasted Life 

on Your Cruel, Inept, Crazy and/or 

Drunk Parents (or Children)! 

Your Ethnic Heritage: 

All Purpose Cxeusel 


forms were already widely practiced, but 
they organized complicated systems and 
networks for optimal efficacy in squeez- 
ing out every penny before moving on 
(sometimes to save their necks) to rape 
more pristine environments. 

Despite the Horatio Alger-type myths, 
most 19th-century Euro-Americans 
found themselves condemned to eternal 
servitude if they played by the rules of 
work hard, scrimp and save, and die 
broke. Gambling was and continues to be 
one possible though unlikely avoidance 
of the damnation of wage slavery, and its 
appeal is not always founded on the 
desire to get away with not working. 
Except in the case of games of pure 
chance, you've got to be skilled to win 
consistently. A parallel can be drawn with 
urban youth who "choose" to deal drugs 
rather than flip burgers for sub-suste- 
nance wages. Because of the hopeless 
degradation of being coerced to earn the 
never-inalienable right to live, and the 
lack of collective alternatives, the tenden- 
cy in a fragmented, artificially competi- 
tive society is to seek individual escape by 
any means necessary. 

Among some American Indians, like 
the Northwest's Shasta before the arrival 
of the pastin (white land-grabbers, 
prospectors, and other "settlers"), gam- 
bling was a highly ritualized and serious 
component of the culture. The activity, 
reserved for adults, entailed days of pre- 
ceremony celibacy — for both the partici- 
pants and the observers — gambling 
songs, prayers, and other rites. It was also 
highly competitive, and might go on for 
two or three days without the interrup- 
tion even of sleep, but was just one com- 
ponent of the culture and by no means 
the foundation of social life. The stigma- 
tization of gambling as an activity that by 
nature promotes greed, duplicity, and 
other pathologically self-serving behavior 
betrays a cultural ethos plagued by self- 
loathing. The stigma is a tacit condemna- 
tion of the forces that propel this society 
rather than of gambling itself 

No Reservations in Heaven 

To act for the good for congressman is money/The 
right to get rich is in the Cotistitution 

Gang of 4, "Life! It's a Shame" 

Ironically, today some American 
Indians are seeking economic salvation by 
pursuing gambling revenues. The state 


In 18th-century English gambling dens, there was an 
employee whose only job was to swallow the dice if 

has conceded them that right. In the 
short term it's Hkely to provide increased 
economic "independence": Successful 
casino owners will get rich, and many 
others will escape poverty mainly 
through service-sector jobs. It's easy to be 
critical of this route, but they're playing 
against a stacked deck and will endure 
further injustices down the road. Though 
the particulars differ, the monetary 
rewards that are coming from legal gam- 
bling are on a par with the cash received 
by tribes that allow toxic waste and 
nuclear industries to use legal loopholes 
to dump on reservations. [See, e.g., "The 
Toxic Waste of Indian Lives," CovertAction 
Information Bulletin, Spring '92] Already, 
mobsters from San Diego and Chicago 
have been indicted for attempts to infil- 
trate gambling operations at the Rincon 
Indian Reservation in SD County, while 
among the Mohawks of Akwesasne, the 
divisiveness created by state-permitted 

gambling has contributed to internecine 
bloodshed and direct intervention by NY 
State's troopers. 

The state's involvement in Indian 
affairs will increase as both sides compete 
for our fun & fantasies. The successful 
growth of casino gambling on tribal terri- 
tories, now a $5 billion per year industry, 
has led to recent cries of "double stan- 
dard" (reverse discrimination) and 
"unconstitutional" from state governors 
and established casino owners who claim 
the Indians are usurping what rightfully 
belongs to them. It's only a matter of 
time before legislators level the playing 
field so that American Indians, the state, 
and the Donald Trumps can all compete 
for gambling's spoils as equals. 

The dual evil of gambling is that it 
undermines the work ethic by its appeal 
to an innate human lust to get something 
for nothing, and as a result fosters venal 
behavior, warn the likes of Bill Safire in a 
NY Times piece reprinted in Akwesasne 
Notes. [v23, #3] While turning pale over 
the proliferation of legalized gambling, 
both in the white-man's society and on 
American Indian reservations, he dis- 
misses the complaints of "bleeding 
hearts" who find sports mascots like 
Cleveland's Chief Wahoo and 
Washington DCs Redskins offensive. 
The Indians are doomed when they 
invite gold diggers and other 49ers to play 
on their turf because to welcome gam- 
bling is to welcome crime, vice, and our 
society's most shiftless elements. It's not 
the profit motive, but these particularly 
sick profit seekers who will undermine 
American Indian sovereignty. "Better a 
proud and upright 'Redskin' than a cor- 
rupted and exploited 'Native American,' " 
writes loathsome Cowboy Bill. 

Safire and his syndicated ilk are of 
course silent about the myriad and con- 
tinuing attacks on Native Americans 
legally perpetrated in the interests of cor- 
porate investors, the US military, and 
toxic-waste dumpers. [See CAIB, op. cit., 
and "The Struggle for Newe Segobia," Z, 
July/August '92] This same selective 
moralizing can be applied to indigenous 
peoples and others in the so-called Third 
World: Since they're not being invaded 
by low-life gamblers, it's for their own 
good that IMF/World Bank austerity 
measures are imposed and noncapitalist 
ways of life destroyed, in order to make 

the climate attractive to speculators out to 
make an "honest" dollar. This is called 
investing in the future rather than cold- 
blooded profiteering. 

Closer to home, state and federal gov- 
ernments increasingly assume the roles of 
incorrigible consumer-confidence men, 
addicted to a fiscally and morally bank- 
rupt status quo. Unable to remain solvent 
merely through borrowing and increased 
sin taxes and other forms of extortion, 
but not yet ready to declare all-out war, 
cash is more and more often obtained 
through promoting new fast-buck 
"opportunities" such as lotteries. The 
government desperately needs money to 
feed its global corporate family, and will 
promise anything — even the world of 
your dreams — to get it. Meanwhile, any 
notion of a qualitatively better way of liv- 
ing rings dissonantly in the heads of the 
system's fortune tellers and their patrons. 

While our system promises that posi- 

One of the standard corner jobs at 19th-century boxing 
matches was that of bloodsucker. "^ 


tive, fundamental change is possible, the 
appeal of games like lotteries, and the 
public energy consumed by manufac- 
tured events such as sports, electoral poli- 
tics, and other entertainment reveal the 
opposite: there's no possibility to effect 
change, or to think about it meaningfully. 
The only hope is that, by the grace of 
ridiculously improbable good fortune, at 
least you (and yours) will get what you 

Too Little, Too Soon 

Hope is not confidence. If it could not be disap- 
pointed, it would not be hope. That is part of it. 
Otherwise, it could be cast in a picture. It 
would let itself be bargained down. It would 
capitulate and say, that is what I had hoped for. 
Thus, hope is critical and can be disappointed. 
However, hope still nails ajlag on the mast, 
even in decline, in that the decline is not accept- 
ed, even when this decline is very strong. 
Ernst Bloch, "Something's Missing" 

I've been a "problem gambler" since at 
least the age of 14 when I made a couple 
of hundred dollars betting on football and 
bought a bass guitar with the loot. I've 
been corrupted ever since. 

About 10 years later, having dropped 
out of college and working as a proof- 
reader on Wall Street, I devoted myself 
for months to the daily study of thor- 

oughbred horse racing. It wasn't meant to 
be a road to the promised land, but 
among the options it was preferable to 
working on the support stafTof a big-time 
corporate law firm (the best job I could 
find). I'd recently been disabused of the 
belief that radical activity takes place in 
the academy, or as a part of any career, 
and was seeking a tolerable means of 

At it's best race-track betting can be 
reasonably fulfilling, and certainly more 
inspiring than reading legal documents 
for "errors" to help attorneys finalize 
their client's poison-pill buy-out, or 
many other forms of gambling. Unlike 
casino gambling, where the environment 
is as stimulating as a shopping mall dur- 
ing a 24-hour fire sale, a horseplayer can 
spend most of the day outdoors. Even in 
the NYC area there's green grass, clear 
water, and trees at the race track. Again, 
unlike the casino, there's about a half- 
hour between each betting opportunity, 
during which time you can read, social- 
ize, or simply relax without the incessant 
clanging of slot machines designed to 
entice you to join in the chase while 
drowning out the silence of the losers. I 
spent most of a two-week vacation going 
to the track, of course with some hope 
that I'd never be returning to the job, but 

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also because it was fun. It's an exciting 
release to anticipate the pay-off of a win- 
ning wager and to watch the last seconds 
of the race as it happens. For a brief 
moment at least, the money isn't an issue. 

My daily devotion to horseplaying was 
fun while it lasted, but I dropped out of 
the race again, largely because it was way 
too much work in the market sense: 
whatever money I made, I couldn't justi- 
fy spending so much time handicap- 
ping — it's not that much fun. 
Pari-mutuel gambling is very competi- 
tive. Your opponents are the other wager- 
ers, some of whom have inside 
information and the money to back it up. 
The state takes about 20% of every dollar 
wagered off the top (this makes it 
"legal"), so appreciable success is not like- 
ly to fall to the financial small fry. You 
won't make much in the stock market, 
either, if you can only afford a one-time 
risk of $100. The tax laws are such that, if 
you win over $1000 at odds of 300 to 1 or 
higher, the IRS and (at least in NY) the 
state take a combined total of about 25% 
of your winnings, and you need photo ID 
and a Social Security card to collect. You 
can win over $1000 at lower odds tax- 
free, but to do so you need to be.. .a high 
roller. Now, if I'd had $5000 to start 
with, didn't have to waste my time at a 
shit-job, and with a little luck and an 
honest jockey.... But gamblers are like old 
fishermen or revolutionaries when they 
start talking about the ones that got away. 

I didn't quit gambling. Even after I 
gave up the grind of closely following 
horse racing I continued to bet in NYC's 
many Off-Track Betting (OTB) parlors. 
This made the workday somewhat more 
tolerable. Lunch hour wasn't the only 
time of day that truly belonged to me, it 
was something to anticipate with opti- 
mism. Though still a routine, it was 
something to do. Sadly, the three or four 
times that I won over $1000 in those last 
six months were probably the happiest 
(aside from the last day at the job, of 

It turned out that as a small-dollar 
wagerer I had greater success knowing 
less: When you've compiled a lot of data, 
you are, at least in your own mind, a kind 
of expert. It's difficult to bet long-shots — 
which are long-shots precisely because 
others have compiled similar data and the 
odds reflect that. This high-odds type of 


gambling deprives you of the satisfaction 
of successfully handicapping a race, and is 
almost as mindlessly random as playing 
the lottery, though I have my secrets. At 
the time I was somewhat desperate and 
willing to accept the rewards when they 
came. This was post-war 1991, when the 
law firm I worked at was "downsizing" 
since the support staff had grown dramat- 
ically in the speculative '80s. We were no 
longer allowed to work overtime (they 
were trying to starve us out rather than 
lay anyone off), and I needed to save for a 
planned move from NYC to SF. 
Gambling winnings played a (taxable) 
role in my escaping that job and city. 

Discouraging Words 

Cheer the loss of another's leg... 

Mekons, "Watch the Film" 

The horseplayer, to a greater degree 
than the worker, has the opportunity to 
exercise what Chomsky has called 
"Cartesian common sense": an innate 
desire and ability to use one's intellect. 
Because you've been taught you're not 
qualified to think, or fear reprisal for 
speaking your mind, you learn to distrust 
or dismiss your own judgments. Without 
evidence to the contrary, a person natu- 
rally trusts the legitimacy of his or her 
own experience, even though this might 
mean describing a reality that conflicts 
with that of the appointed experts. Most 
horseplayers treat experts with disdain — 
though they're more than happy to tell 
you what they themselves think — since 
it's obvious that the expert is just doing a 
job. At the very least, no expert's opinion 
is accepted at face value. The extent to 
which you think for yourself is left to 
you, and it's always in your best interest. 

But even though individuals need to 
think and want a voice, this desire is 
diverted to matters of little or no conse- 
quence, or to matters over which we have 
no meaningful say. Who will win the 
late-night talkshow war? What do Lee 
laccoca and Ross Perot have to say about 
NAFTA? Are we gonna get health care? 
Has that horse Open Mind ever won on 
a sloppy track at more than seven fur- 
longs? People need to think, but we don't 
need to think about what we think about. 
Or we just can't do so on a regular basis 
without losing touch with reality, where 
"common sense" trickles down from 
above. Whether you buy it or not you're 

the poorer for it. 

These days I'm too poor to gamble. In 
SF, there are no OTBs, where all you 
need is $2 and the ambition to walk a few 
blocks to find a betting window. I'm 
"self employed — no insurance, and 
never knowing when or if I'll get more 

work — and sinking more deeply into the 
kind of debt that only gambling win- 
nings, or a collapse of the world econo- 
my, might erase.... 
The wager? Bet both lungs. 

— Richard Wool 

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Under a Single Payer Plan the government pays for everyone's health care. 
By eliminating private insurance companies, we would save enough money to 

provide health care for everyone. graphic by Doug Minkier 



W-e think in metaphors. All 
abstractions (including the 
word "abstraction") derive 
from terms for concrete experiences 
Thought is a vast coral, whose 
"worms" are living 
metaphors and whose 
reef is composed of 
dead ones. As differ- 
ent corals have differ- 
ent characteristic 
shapes, so various 
areas of our thinking 
are dominated by cer- 
tain meta-metaphors 
or metaphoric struc- 
tures. For instance, in 
their study More Than 
Cool Reason, George 
Lakoff and Mark 
Turner show^ how^ our 
thinking about time is structured 
by the metaphor of the journey. 
The structuring goes so 
deep in our conscious- 
ness that it is almost 
impossible to talk 
about time 

graphic by Sarah Moni 

The individual psyche itself is, 
traditionally, another hierarchy- 
intellect at the summit ruling the 
ranked passions, which in turn 
dominate the body. 
To this I would like to oppose the 
human tree-being we may call the 
"multividual" — a body of experience 
rooted, certainly, in biography (the 
topsoil of history) but through 
which desire travels like sap to 
nourish a branching plurality of 
personae, some of which may then 
drop their own roots. 

journey metaphor in one way or 
another. (Try it.) 

Since they are mainly concerned with lan- 
guage as such, Lakoff and Turner demonstrate 
this metaphoric structuring by recourse to the 
dead and dying tropes buried in everyday 

speech. But I contend that 
metaphoric structuring 
extends beyond the word 
into all our signifying 
activity. Some of the most 
basic meta-metaphors may 
in fact be partly "hard- 
wired" in our brains out of 
our evolutionary history as 
primates or as mammals — 
since land mammals 
demonstrably share a lan- 
guage of facial and bodily 
expression, of which "pri- 
mate" is a dialect. 
Nevertheless, just as we 
can resist our predisposi- 
tion to behave like chim- 
panzees even though we 
are genetically almost identical to them, so 
we may shift even these hypothetical 
"deep structures" toward new ones 
that better fit our experience and 
understanding. Such a shift is 
what I now propose — or 
rather, as it has already 
begun to take place, 
it is what I intend 
^1^ to foreground 

and clarify. 

7 4 


3 2 


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The Pyramid I 

Ever since the growth of patriarchy, P 
caste, and class out of settled agriculture 2 
millennia ago, hierarchy has been as cen- S- 
tral to thought as it has to social organiza- 
tion. To begin with, all individuals in a 
society must be ranked. This ranking is 
carried out along multiple and overlap- 
ping axes: gender (and possession of cer- 
tain gendered characteristics); wealth 
(and how long one's family has possessed 
it); occupation (or hereditary occupation- 
al caste); skin tone (or other racial mark- 
ers); regional origin; tribal or religious 
affiliation; and so forth. Entire societies 
must be ranked as well: by size of social 
unit, military prowess or aggressiveness, 
degree of urbanization or mechanization, 
use of literacy or mathematics — or again 
by type of religious belief 

Civilized thought has typically insert- 
ed this social and intersocial hierarchy into 
a natural or cosmic one: the "Great Chain 
of Being." At one end of this chain are the 
gods or God. Next in rank are the spirits of 
the air, dragons, devas, or angels. A few 
links further back are human beings — or 
rather, Man, to whom Woman is subordi- 
nated. The next links are the mammals and 
birds, followed by the reptiles, the fish, the 
insects and other arthropods, the plants, 
and finally the rocks and minerals. The rea- 
sons for this projection of social hierarchy 
onto the cosmos are all too obvious. As 
Marx long ago pointed out, every domi- 
nant class inscribes its domination into the 
image of nature; and for this to be possible, 
the principle of hierarchy must itself be 
unquestioned natural law. 

Both social and cosmic hierarchies 
have traditionally been figured as verti- 
cality. Since there are typically fewer 
individuals at each level of society as one 
"ascends," the Pyramid is the "natural" 
trope for both. (The independent occur- 
rence of the pyramid in the sacred archi- 
tecture of Egypt, India, and the Americas 
is suggestive.) In what must be one of the 
most ancient versions of this image, the 
Hindu, the pyramidal hierarchy is also a 
map for the journey of the soul, which 
must progress by way of successive incar- 
nations from the "lowest" level to the 
"highest," up through the layers of 
species and caste, to be reunited wath the 
Divine. In the scholastic cosmogony 
derived from Aristotle that dominated 
medieval European thinking, the cosmic 
pyramid existed as real physical space, 
with God at its apex (and everywhere 
else), and the orders of Creation ranked 
below in tier upon tier according to the 
ratio of "noble" or "base" elements that 

composed them. Dante, in fact, imagined 
Hell as the inverted mirror-image of this 
pyramid, an infernal counter-hierarchy 
beneath the lowest levels of Creation 

More than two centuries after the 
founding of American democracy, social 
hierarchy is still with us, and with a 
vengeance. Its principal and closely inter- 
linked forms in wealthy countries are 
economic class (often figured as the 
"income pyramid"); a modified patri- 
archy that depends increasingly on the 
distribution of gendered behaviors rather 
than on biological sex; and institutional 
racism, again tending toward a continuous 
ranking of behaviors (and skin tone) rather 
than a binary division into white and non- 
white. Beyond our borders, nations and 
regions are stacked chiefly according to 
their "level of development": that is, their 
degree of integration into the capitalist 
world system as producers and consumers 
according to indicators like GNP and aver- 
age money income. Like the soul in 
Hinduism, these nations are supposed to 
ascend the development pyramid until 
they achieve the blissful samadhi enjoyed 
by the US, Western Europe, and Japan. 
Unfortunately, the income-development 
pyramid is more like those built by the 
Aztecs. Many of those who climb it do so 
only to have their hearts cut out as a sacri- 
fice to Capital by the transnational priests 
at the summit. And, like the pyramids of 
Egypt, this pyramid is built by forced labor 
and sits in a conceptual desert — "nature" 
as resources to be exploited — ^which is fast 
becoming a literal one. 

Not surprisingly, hierarchical meta- 
phor persists in all areas of our significa- 
tion. Most religions, of course, are 
resolutely hierarchical in their image of the 
world. But science too remains under the 
sway (see what I mean?) of these 
metaphors, despite recent criticism of such 

thinking from within the scientific com- 
munity. For example, physicists still com- 
monly talk about the scale of physical 
reality in terms of "levels" — the galactic 
level, the molecular level, the atomic level, 
the quantum (or "subatomic") level, and 
so on. And while most biologists now for- 
mally reject the notion of evolution as lin- 
ear "progress" from "lower" to "higher" 
forms, the image of Life as an Aristotelian 
hierarchy of species lingers on in textbook 
illustrations and popular thinking: a pyra- 
mid with Homo Sapiens at the top and 
viruses at the bottom. Even ecologists still 
habitually talk of pollutants returning "up 
the food chain" from, say, plants to 
humans "at the top." 

In some respects, these hierarchical 
images have more substance than ever 
before. Technology has, it seems, ful- 
filled the Sky-Father's promise in 
Genesis and given Man dominion over 
nature. He now possesses the means to 
affect the cosmic pyramid at all levels; 
from the planetary on down: he can cre- 
ate as well as destroy biological species, 
design molecules that will do almost any- 
thing, and release the energy of the 
atomic nucleus. But while mechanized 
society can wipe out or transform whole 
ecosystems almost instantaneously, it has 
little understanding of, or control over, 
the consequences of these actions. By 
virtually eliminating one species with 
pesticides, for instance, farmers may trig- 
ger a population surge in another. 
Antibiotics depress the population of a 
bacterium only to let it return in a new 
drug-resistant form. Air conditioners and 
refrigerators shield us and our food from 
the effects of warm weather; but the 
chemicals they use are destroying the 
ozone layer and exposing us to more 
damaging radiation. As many people now 
realize, civilized, mechanized Man's 
position at the top of the pyramid is 
getting shaky. 

The Tree 

Here and there, societies still exist in 
which there is little or no social hierar- 
chy. They may well contain leaders or 
other individuals whose experience is 
uniquely respected, and who are conse- 
quently deferred to in their realm of 
knowledge; but these individuals hold no 
absolute authority. Nor is there much 
economic stratification: no-one "em- 
ploys" anyone else, and sharing is the 
norm. In some of these "primitive" soci- 
eties, even male dominance is muted if 
not altogether absent. Far from being 
mere passive hunter-gatherers, such peo- 

7 6 


3 2 

pies have stewarded the ecosystems 
around them very effectively (by con- 
trolled burnofFs of underbrush, selective 
planting, and other forms of silviculture). 
They do not as a rule see themselves as 
superior to animals or plants; they regard 
them as fellow-beings, to be communi- 
cated with and learned from as well as 
made use of Yet, as Marshall Sahlins has 
shown, they often live in abundance, 
spending far less time on material sur- 
vival than civilized people do. 

We cannot return to the way of life 
these peoples practice, if only because it 
will not support even a small fraction of 
the human beings now alive. Yet its very 
existence demonstrates that social hierar- 
chy is not "natural" to human beings (any 
more than equality is); that a dialogic or 
collaborative relationship with non- 
human nature is possible, one that 
depends neither on dominative "manage- 
ment" nor on timorous passivity; and that 
abundant life is denied the vast majority in 

favor of an artificial scarcity meant to force 
them to work for money. I believe, along 
with many others in the worldwide ecolo- 
gy movement, that we must find larger- 
scale equivalents to the achievements of 
small "primitive" societies. We must cre- 
ate forms of social organization and tech- 
nology that allow billions of people to live 
sustainably in reasonable comfort — and 
with far more free time and far greater 
collective control over their own lives 
than any but the very rich now possess. 
Otherwise, the pyramids will collapse on 
top of us as their basis, relentlessly exploit- 
ed human and non-human nature, either 
rebels or rots. 

Such massive changes v^dll clearly not 
occur without an equally massive change 
in the outlook and priorities of many mil- 
lions of people. The movement will not 
bring this about solely by rational argu- 
ment; for such argument in and of itself 
treats language, in unreconstructed 
Enlightenment fashion, as a transparent, 


neutral medium of communication 
between monadic individuals. (Nor, at the 
other extreme, will the movement tri- 
umph by emotional and moral appeals 
that motivate people primarily through 
fear or guilt, since these wear out fast and 
are followed by numbness.) We must be 
effective also at the preconscious linguistic 
level where poets (and ad-makers, alas) 
work: shifting people's perceptual frames 
by changing symbolism, connotation, 
master narrative — and master trope. 

I began this essay by asserting that 
we think in metaphors, and that deep 
metaphoric structures organize whole 
areas of experience. I see signs that these 
structures are changing, in ways that may 
prefigure social, political, and cultural 
transformation. I would like to intervene 
in the process by bringing forward what 
may be a new organizing metaphor for 
our experience of collective (social and 
biospheric) life, one that replaces the 
Pyramid image derived from thousands 
of years of hierarchical domination. This 
metaphor is the Tree. 

I like this metaphor first of all 
because of its literal, material value. As 
many people know by now, the repro- 
duction of life on earth depends on trees, 
and especially on the tropical rain forests. 
If we are even to arrest the trend to glob- 
al warming via the greenhouse effect, we 
will need not only to save what is left of 
the forests but to plant vast new ones. 
And these forests must not simply be tree 
farms for transnational corporations (or 
oxygen farms for a "Green" technocracy). 
They must be what all old-growth forests 
are: reservoirs of biodiversity, crucibles 
of evolution, and labyrinths of wildness 
and beauty. A reverence for trees — not 
just metaphorical trees but real, living 
ones that exist before any word that can 
name them — such reverence is now a 
survival requirement for our species. For 
this reason alone it is appropriate that we 
begin conceiving of our life in terms of 
the Tree. 

Of course tree-symbolism is ancient 
and various, from the Trees of Life and 
Knowledge in Eden to the Norse World- 
Tree Yggdrasil. Particular tree species 
have been sacred, too, in many cultures. 
How could it be otherwise? But new 
tree-metaphors seem to be emerging. At 
the most mundane level, the new infor- 
mation technologies seem particularly 
disposed to tree-imagery: the homely 
phone tree for spreading information; 
the branching file tree of the computer 
operating system, whose primary directo- 
ry is often called "root"; the decision tree 


(or decision forest) of expert systems and 
"intelligent" programming languages. 
True, in these fields, the Net (as in data 
communications networks, neural net- 
work computing, and so on) is a con- 
tender for the organizing metaphor. I 
prefer the Tree, not only for the reasons 
already given, but because the Tree sug- 
gests a common center, a shared support 
to which all the other elements con- 
tribute and by which they are nourished 
in turn — and also a vertical as well as 
horizontal aspiration. Besides, the Net 
seems to be an emergent ideological 
image for the revamping of large "pro- 
gressive" corporations, which are seeking 
to become less rigidly top-down in their 
day-to-day decision making without in 
any way altering the ultra-hierarchical 
context in which they operate. This is 
probably appropriate, given that the most 

netlike organisms on earth are slime 

Let me offer some further, more 
speculative examples. (To begin with, 
perhaps I should offer this essay itself as a 
tree, open-ended, growing in several 
directions at once. And so I ask for poetic 
license. The word in prose tends to be a 
pyramid, in which broad associative 
potential converges into the pointed pre- 
cision of denotation; the word in poetry 
is more like a tree, branching connota- 
tively from the signification the 
reader/hearer initially gives it into a leaf- 
play of suggested meaning.) 

To return to our starting-point, soci- 
ety. Instead of the hierarchical pyramid of 
national-regional-local government, with 
the individual (read "dirt") at the bottom, 
imagine a tree-polity: a polycentric 
democracy, whose trunk is the largest 









scale of the demos or consciously orga- 
nized people, whose interwoven and 
tapering branches are ever more local and 
specialized decision-making bodies, and 
whose leaves are possibilities for individ- 
ual choice and self-development. 

For this to be possible, the income 
and GNP pyramids must be replaced by a 
worldwide tree-economy. The trunk this 
time can be seen as democratic planning 
for the common social and ecological 
good — or as everything that needs to be 
organized, produced, and distributed in 
standardized form and at a global level. 
The branches taper to increasingly local 
orders of production/distribution and 
shared goods, on the principle of maxi- 
mum comfortable and sustainable self- 
sufficiency in each order. The roots of this 
tree, of course, are in the literal earth — not 
set down on it but growing out of it. And 
the leaves, fed by the tree and feeding it, 
are the millions of individuals who, freed 
from the stupid struggle for survival 
imposed by engineered scarcity, can con- 
tribute their imaginative energies to the 
common life. 

The kind of political organization — 
or rather, organized process — that might 
bring this about must also be treelike. 
The standard form of all modern political 
parties is pyramidal, from the layers of 
careerists, technocrats, and hacks in the 
typical "party of government" to the 
Leninist revolutionary vanguard with its 
cell-and-committee structure. Radially 
(radically) rooted in diversity, our party 
should converge in a common program 
and overall strategy only to branch out 
again into countless local and finally 
individual initiatives. 

Yet the individual psyche itself is, 
traditionally, another hierarchy — intellect 
at the summit ruling the ranked passions, 
which in turn dominate the body. More 
recent versions include the triadic 
Freudian pyramid of Superego-Ego-Id 
and Jung's famous "old house" from 
Memories, Dreams, Rejlections: a temporal 
hierarchy with the modern bourgeois 
furniture of the conscious mind on the 
top floor, the old-fashioned decor of the 
personal and cultural unconscious one 
floor down, and the ancient stones and 
bones of the collective unconscious in 
the basement. Broadly, in the "Western" 
view, the monadic, unified Subject or 
Self is the uppermost pinnacle, both as 
ideal to be striven for (whether through 
education or psychoanalysis) and as daylit 
convergence of the dark forces of history 
and desire. 

To this I would like to oppose the 

7 8 


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